Proposal for the British Pavilion at the 2020 Venice Biennale
The British Heart beats inside the Venice Giardini British Pavilion. It beats faster when people
take an interest but then slows down if nobody is interested in what Great Britain has to say.
Like a tide, it ebbs and flows, inflating its ego to kick people out and then, when it finds its
compassion, deflates again to absorb humanity within its borders. It treats citizens like gas
particles, in a fluid movement, in and out, alternating silence and peace with roars and panic.
For the exhibition, the British heart will be made from an inflatable, square volume that will range
between 2 and 5 meters in height. Visitors will perceive this as a merciless, rubber wall moving
towards them. Its surface might be a simple, grey colour (possibly representing the rafts that
immigrants use to cross the Channel) or emblazoned with the British flag (or a similar,
stereotypical British graphical pattern).
To reduce the interior air volume of the piece, the inflatable object would be built with a void in
the middle, like a 'squared donut'. To optimize the speed of inflation, and reduce the electric bill,
it could be made of two concentric donuts; the external one being thin but always inflated and the
internal one inflating and deflating to push the external one backwards and forwards. Those
external rubber walls will be linked with elastic rubber bands to the middle of the floor, so that
every time the heart deflates, the object can rapidly withdraw and diminish its volume inside the
pavilion's main room.
The electric air blower pumps will be hidden in the middle of the donut and powered
by solar panels that can be placed on the roof of the pavilion.
Sometimes, the inflation will be violently fast and noisy. At other times, it will be
very slow and contemplative. The digital control for the beating of the heart will be
responsive and configure into different patterns depending on the number of visitors
and other factors such as the room noise and luminosity. Health and safety of the
visitors will be a priority so that entry to, and exit from, the exhibition will be
optimized for maximum immersion.
The idea is simple and bold so that the concept of the installation can be very clear
to the audience and the engagement created by the movement of the British Heart
will deliver amazement, confusion, anxiety and, finally, panic! However, this will be
followed by an opportunity to calm down, feel a release of pressure and allow the
visitor to contemplate the possible consequences of what they have experienced.
The installation is very clear because it is composed of only one simple object that influences visitors
movements and behavior in a clear and bounded way.
This piece is intended to be a sensory architecture of emotions, defining a clear
boundary from the rationality of past architectures. An interactive and immersive
space that wants to play with its audience in creating a dense feeling of complicity
and solidarity amongst the visitors that have had to face this unexpected
architectural happening, together.
We want to use a critical spatial language to represent contemporary British culture
and sentiment. Around the world, British culture and Architecture has always been
identified for its bold approach towards new technologies and for embracing pop
culture in a sophisticated manner. It is also often credited with paving the way for
new world trends in design thinking.
We believe the future of England and Europe will be significantly influenced by
Brexit and, going forward, topics such as migration flows will be crucial in the
development of the country. We believe that this very simple installation can be a
very powerful and effective way to communicate our idea without being overly
intellectualized. We want to create a space for discourse and immersion in the
history of social art and architecture.
The vision of the proposal is very strong because it is not only a clear metaphor of the forces that are
pushing people in and out of England but is also an innovative and bold vision of the future of architecture: digital, interactive, immersive, sensory and emotional.
For us, the key is to trigger the sentiments and imagination related to a very crucial
topic that is at the heart of contemporary British life.
The installation's main theme focuses on the British contradictions regarding equality, diversity and
inclusivity within its society and hopes to give some clarity and focus to these very topics.
This type of content can easily generate a debate so the space can host many
related events, helping the public to get deeper into the topic and have a clearer
understanding of the British people and their ideas and solutions for the future of
migration and national identity.
BREXIT PAVILION CREDITS:
Design firm: 3GATTI
Chief architect: Francesco Gatti
Project architect: Andrea Manzini
Curator: Adipat Virdi
Client: British Council
Design period: February 2019
Materials: PVC membrane, rubber bands, electric blowers