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Pavilion of Greece at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition La Bienalle di Venezia

Commissioners - Curators: Phoebe Giannisi, Zissis Kotionis

The oldest meaning of the ancient greek word for the activity of building, ktisis, is “weeding, preparation of the soil for sowing, planting“, while the meanings of ‘foundation’ and ‘construction’ are subsequent. Sowing and Construction introduce at the outset a dual function for architecture as the activity of organizing both buildings in space and, also, of open, natural spaces. By means of the present project, we seek to reintroduce into contemporary architectural practices the spaces of culture in its double meaning, of agriculture and of civilization. “People meet within culture”.

The economic crisis under way in Greece and in Europe is simultaneously a crisis of production and of employment and, overall, a crisis of human performativity within metropolitan and, indeed, any man-made environments. Beyond the bounds of the metropolis, the agricultural sector is also undergoing a crisis after the collapse of mechanized monocultures and of the European subsidies. The crisis in agriculture affects the availability and quality of nutrition. At the same time, the harsh conditions of the economic crisis in the cities turn all heads to the countryside and to the land available, which thus assumes the value of vital resource with the potential of providing employment, quality of living, alternative structuring of production and of motivating networking, the forming of communities and the development of communal living practices.

The responsibility of architecture goes beyond the bounds of the constructed edifice. It is being defined anew as a set of practices for the planning and management of land spaces. Land is tantamount to cultivation: cultivation of seeds and plants but also of civilisation, interconnections, communication and exchange. The architecture of cultivations, landscaping, the determination of performativity within given spatial fields, all these derive from the software programs which we designate as seeds and, generally, as biogenetic plant material.

The project of the ‘Ark’ attempts to point out, synaesthetically, the relation between, on the one hand, the biogenetic plant material and the seeds which are cultivated and, on the other, the kind of landscape in which we live and the way(s) in which we are metabolised. Metabolism itself is not a biological but a cultural process. The deterioration of nutrition is synonymous with the deterioration of memory and of history which, in the case of Greece, is rich both in terms of diversity and temporal continuity.

The Ark which settles on the Pavilion of Greece becomes a condenser – a bank of seeds as well as a field of exchange of both information and plant-seeding material. In addition, the Ark is a kitchen, a space where food is produced out of seeds. Eating brings people together and architecture frames this intimacy. The seeds, plants and fruit  are gathered, bearing evidence to the rich Greek biodiversity. The responsibility of showcasing, preserving and restoring the biodiversity within the contemporary urban-agricultural space, is symbolically taken up by the creation and operation of the greek Ark of seeds-come-kitchen, at the 12th architecture Biennale of Venice.   

Ark Design: Zissis Kotionis, Phoebe Giannisi
Ark Construction: Gavrilos Michalis
Collection of Biogenetic plant material: Orestis Davias, biologist 
Layout of Exhibition of Agricultural Landscape: Kostas Manolidis, architect
Video & sound installation: Yannis Isidorou, visual artist
Information layout: Alexandros Psychoulis, visual artist
Installation Consultant: Maria Papadimitriou, visual artist, responsible for the actions/workshops in the city, and the performance of catering and cultivation action
Catalogue editors: Phoebe Giannisi, Katerina Iliopoulou, Zissis Kotionis
Catalogue Design : Michalis Paparounis, publisher
Website design & development: Alexandros Psychoulis, George Kalaouzis
Communications manager, Venice project: Alexia Katsigera
Assistants: Vasia Lyri, Thaleia Melissa, Artemis Nikolopoulou, Alina Orfanou, Nikos Platsas, Michalis Softas, Anna Vasof, Niovi Zarabouka