Author: Manuel Aires Mateus
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Of the around 20 biennials and triennials worldwide devoted to architecture, the Venice Architecture Biennale is the most prominent, considered as the world's leading biannual architecture festival. The participating architects selected every second year come from around the world to engage in the most important information exchange in the world of architecture. Aires Mateus Architects is the architectural practice operated by two brothers, Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus. They have been invited five times to participate in Venice. This publication will introduce the five architectural installations they contributed to the biennales in the last decade. The publication consists of five individual parts, each of them a separate book, and held together by a French-fold-dustjacket. Each book is dedicated to one exhibition in Venice. The beautiful projects presented in this volume set an outstanding example of architectural installations reflecting space in a sensitive, poetic and mathematical way. Over the last three decades, Aires Mateus have gained international recognition for their contemporary reinterpretation of architectural traditions in Portugal. Their work is poetic in nature, and much of it is based on constant exploration and experimentation. Their abstract architectural installations are the artistic manifestation of this work. VOIDS: The first time Aires Mateus presented Portugal at the Venice Biennale was in 2010. The show was curated by Kazuyo Sejima from Sanaa, the first woman ever to work as chief curator of the Venice Architecture biennale. Aires Mateus' installation "VOID" was strikingly simple, as their minimalistic architecture often is. An entire room in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini was filled with abstract models of Aires Mateus' projects. Their installation investigated the extraction of volumes, connecting positive building forms with corresponding negative space. This relationship between positive and negative spaces has always existed inherently, but rarely been so clearly and understandably articulated. RADIX: In 2012, the installation took the form of a single large sculpture which greeted the visitors in the Arsenale area. The open and closed arches of "Radix", a steel structure clad with rusting steel panels on the outside and with a golden finish on the inside, could be perceived as a continuation of the arches of the shipyards in the docks of the Venice Arsenale. Despite the heavy steel construction, the arches of the pseudo-rectangular block and the brownish and golden color has a light appearance; it is as if it were made of wood. The arches are supported at three points, with the main arch overhanging the docks. FENDA: In 2016 the participation again took the form of an installation, but this time the visitors could enter a beautifully illuminated, mysterious cube, with which the architects symbolically marked the return to the essence of space. Space was considered from the perspective of its relationship with the human, that is anthropologically. The installation served as a reminder that this is still the essential value of architecture. FENDA is a cube with outside dimensions of 7x7x4 meters. The visitor enters by opening a black curtain, and passes through a one-meter-thick concrete wall to enter. Inside, one finds oneself in a kind of cave. The slit of light from the entrance opens and closes the visitor's path, changing the scale and perception of space. FIELD: Though it is another beautiful sculpture, this installation differs from the others: this time, one cannot enter the installation, one can only look inside. The book cover shows one of the views that the visitor can glimpse. The curators described this work as a sensitive, poetic and mathematical reflection on space. What the visitor perceives, the smell, colors and texture, remind of nature. Subtle textures or spots of color emerge from the dark under a diffuse and warm light, evoking the beauty of controlled landscapes and blurring the limits between natural and artificial. GROUND: the upcoming exhibition at this year's biennale will again ... Every installation will be introduced with a short essay, especially written by philosophers, architects, and an art critic for this publication. With contributions by Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Crespo, Sofia Pinto Basto, Paulo Pires Basto, and Delfim Sardo.