venice architecture biennale

The vessel (final draft)

Malacca surprisingly enough draws many parallels to Venice. The water body surrounding the peninsula of old Malaya has brought about the congruence of cultures to come together and manifest in the voices of today's artisans, craftsmen and architects - a tapestry that is now the modern architectural feat that is both Malacca and Venice. Our Straits of Malacca echoes the Grand Canal in trade, history and spiritual growth in the realms of culture, finance and the arts.

The Rialto Bridge mirrors its wonderful cousin - the wooden bridge in old Malacca. During the Portuguese occupation days, royal warriors once fought here. This modern day world class tourist destination was famously known as a point of many contentious and vigorous trades. Similarly the arsenals of Venice, once a defence mechanism at the now famously visited Arsenale – is a station and laboratory for tremendous artistic expressions, ideas and the ‘raison d'être’ for this architectural exposition in Venice. An event that commands creative individuals to issue their contemporary voices, Malacca similarly echoes this in its own history of Dutch, British and Portuguese influence which spurred into Malaysia's multicultural and multilingual identity. Traveller and trader alike, the Venice of Asia begets today's fine art and modern expressions in both a cultural and intellectual sense. We see this as the common ground of any form of architecture. Both Malacca and Venice are similar in nature in their respective diverse history and critical cultural contribution to their nations.

The evolution of maritime architecture in both historical cities resonates in the marine and wooden materials selected for the Malaysian installation – a structure to anchor, protect and capture the individuality of 30 Malaysians. Ruskin's diary written in 1840s Venice, reminds us of the fundamentals and foundations of architecture through his essay ‘The Seven Lamps of Architecture’. Our core theme of Voices verbalises the four of the ‘Lamps’ – Sacrifice in presence at the Biennale, Truth in the choice of natural materials – wood, Life in the craftsmanship of the exhibit and Memory of the relationship and common ground Malacca and Venice share. It is through our Noah’s Ark that we express our desire to collectively cultivate and regard creativity at any place and time. The vessel represents the travelling echo of voices – sailing across boundaries and differences, from one vessel to another through intellectual waters to propose knowledge, intelligence and philosophical truths for those who seek to embrace and enjoy.

Our voices are captured in a small but unified floating vessel, elevated to give way for water to pass below and the journey continues as Venice receives our ideas through the exchange of voices. Through trade and exchange of past and present, we find Sir David Chipperfield's quest for common ground.

written by mei-zhi neoh for huatlim for the creative team