Through Nov. 7

Apart from the lure of the city, itself, there's another good reason to visit Venice this month: "Metamorph."

The Biennale di Venezia's 9th international architecture exhibition, "Metamorph," presents the work of over 170 architecture studios. More than 200 projects will be on show, including photographs, videos and eight special installations by architects Ben van Berkel, Peter Eisenman, Kengo Kuma, Juan Navarro Baldeweg, Massimo Scolari, Ron Arad, Wilkinson - Eyre, Sauerbruch + Hutton and others.

"Metamorph" explores fundamental changes underway in contemporary architecture, in both theoretical and practical design.

Shown: EOM, Eric Owen Moss Architects: Jose Vasconcelos Library of Mexico, Mexico City, 2003

The premise of the program: architecture becomes livable only when it adapts its limits to its environment, the same way as the primary components of life, cells. This new morphology of living spaces is taking over "the era of Vitruvian architecture", leaving room for new scenarios in the construction of new types of spaces in today's world.

Due to informed research into materials possessing variable, reactive qualities, much architecture is changing its nature. It assumes curvilinear forms and the function of its 'shells' mirrors that of living membranes.

"Metamorph" is divided into two settings: the Corderie, and the Giardini della Biennale.

The Corderie in the Venice Arsenale is the venue for works that have transformed the discipline of architecture since the 1970s, from those of Peter Eisenman (with his terrestrial automatisms), Frank O. Gehry (with buildings that transform themselves into fish), Aldo Rossi (architecture as memory), and James Stirling (the constructivist collage), to the latest trends and projects.

The historical perspective presented here investigates the means by which architecture modifies its own processes of invention and execution, acquiring the ability to adapt, and to operate under radically new circumstances.

The exhibit is separated into sections. Starting with the transformation of existing buildings and broadening out to include the new topography, the spaces of the Corderie will also host sections dedicated to detailed sub-sections: surfaces, atmosphere and hyper-projects.

Step by step, this succession traces the evolution of architecture. Hyper-projects represent the greatest complexity yet achieved, both for their internal organization and for their seamless extension into the surrounding territory; architecture as living organism, adapting to new environments.

The Italian Pavilion in the Giardini della Biennale presents installations commissioned from various designers, offering specific examples of recent transformations in architecture.

These installations reveal metamorphoses in new types of building; new materials and construction systems, both in the form of depictions and actual realizations of architectural innovations.

Also on view, the photographic section, "Morphing Lights, Floating Shadows,"
which presents the works of over 60 photographers divided into topics associated with the exhibition's themes.

For a century, the role of photography in architecture was associated mainly with accurate documentation or, in some particularly interesting cases, of the distribution of an architect's point of view about his own work via publications.

However, in recent years, exchanges and collaboration between photographers and architects are increasingly frequent. Photographers are able to reveal atmospheric, ephemeral but significant aspects in their images, providing architects with new stimuli for expression in their projects.

Within the Italian Pavilion, the section entitled "News from the Interior," groups together domestic Italian architecture. On show will be the latest transformations of home/work interior, displaying the work of 40 architects.

Shown: Wilkinson Eyre Architects: Royal Ballet School Bridge, London, 2003

Lastly, the "Cities on Water" section. What's that? Cities on water; architects from 20 cities that share an important relationship with the sea, lakes and rivers - from Bilbao to Buenos Aires, Lyons to Seoul - present their respective reviews of the metamorphoses undergone by their respective urban waterfronts.

The layout of the "Cities on Water" section takes the form of a floating pavilion, a sort of large 'ship' anchored in the Arsenale basin in the shadow of the Gaggiandre.
It offers a broad survey of the projects of "water cities" in one of the most historically significant water cities of them all, offering insight into the special problem of maintaining a viable, inhabited city, against the vagaries of a vast body of water: the Mediterranean. High tide, anyone?

Shown above/header image: UN Studio: La Defense Offices, Almere, The Netherlands 1999-2004

Find it: Venice Arsenale (Corderie and Artiglierie), Giardini della Biennale
Get there: ACTV lines 1/51/61/82/41 from Piazzale Roma and Ferrovia
stops: Arsenale; Giardini

Get info: +39 041 5218846, +49 7531 90730

Find art events in other cities, in the OCT/NOV issue of "Arte Six".