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Biennale Bling: Rem Koolhaas and Swarovski Sparkle in Venice

(Gilbert McCarragher)
(Photo: Gilbert McCarragher)

The long-awaited Rem Koolhaas-curated Venice Architecture Biennale is upon us. Along with a newly cohesive approach to the national pavilions, in which the 65 participating nations each address a “key moment from a century of modernization,” and the central “Elements of Architecture” exhibition (spoiler alert: “It is nothing to do with design,” Koolhaas explained yesterday), there is “Monditalia,” a multidisciplinary portrait of Italy in the form of 82 films, 41 architectural projects, and a merger of architecture with the Biennale’s dance, music, theater, and film sections. Mamma mia!

Visitors enter Monditalia through a dramatic illuminated archway, which is saved from smacking of Vegas or Disney by its setting in the augustly industrial Arsenale. Dubbed Luminaire, the sparkling facade—spanning nearly 66 feet in length—was created in collaboration with Swarovski using thousands of colored light bulbs and a generous dusting (read: 33 pounds worth) of Swarovski crystals, all encrusting an elaborate wooden frame. Koolhaas describes what lies beyond the gate as dealing with “the current state of Italy, between treasure and crisis, knowledge and controversies, history and politics.”

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