Groves-Raines Architects

Transient Gallery/Galleria Temporanea


CRITICAL DIALOGUES directed by Jonathan Charley is the 2012 Scottish contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale and showcases projects from four emerging practices, Do Architecture, GRAS, Stone Opera and Pidgin Perfect that explore the social role of the architect and the creative boundaries of architecture organised as a weeklong series of events within the public realm.

GRAS' individual contribution, The Transient Gallery explores the significance of everyday functional objects, which create or enhance a sense of collective identity across the communities that use them. In response to the theme of this year's Venice Biennale, Common Ground, the Gallery specifically focuses attention on the historic well heads located throughout the city, which were for centuries the only source of fresh drinking water in Venice. Often richly embellished with cultural and political motifs, these were an important meeting point where the Venetian people would exchange stories, gossip and news on a daily basis. With the decommissioning of the well heads and fresh water becoming available in private homes this network of social interaction was lost. The project presents these threatened artefacts in a gallery like environment at the heart of the communities they once served. By highlighting them and celebrating their history the intention is to encourage debate among residents and design professionals on the relevance of similar shared functional objects in modern communities.
The Transient Gallery consists of a series of curved, lightweight interlocking panels, which stack during transport, but when linked together, form a spiral enclosure around the freestanding well heads, defining a serene internal space and removing visual and acoustic distractions. The Gallery was constructed in Scotland and transported to Venice by van where it was assembled at a range of locations throughout the city over the course of a week. At each location, Scottish spring water was served in numbered glass bottles as a reminder of the wells original purpose and history and to form a tangible link between the historic wells of Scotland and Venice. This gesture also serves to emphasise what a precious commodity clean water has been historically, and will be in the future.

The gallery, which is constructed in Ultra High Density, 100% recyclable polystyrene combines modern CAM techniques with traditional crafts. Each panel is cut by machine before being hand tooled, finished and assembled in the practice's workshop. In order to explore the potential treatments of the material all of the tooling was undertaken by the architects working in collaboration with traditional craftsmen, including a cabinetmaker and stonemason. The rough outer face is hand tooled using traditional techniques normally associated with stone working, before being heat sealed to form a hardwearing outer crust, while the inner face is surface filled and painted to provide a smooth, bright interior. The entire structure consists of 12 panels, each weighing approximately 8kgs and can be easily assembled by two people in around twenty minutes and cost under £3000 to build.

After the Venice Biennale 2012 the structure returned to Scotland where it appeared for periods of time in a number of locations, drawing attention to undervalued objects in our urban environment. In Spring 2013 the outcome of the work and the structure itself formed part of an exhibition covering the work by all of the practices involved in Scotland+Venice 2012.

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