Walking in a cloud at Venice architecture show

Wed Sep 1, 2010 6:13am EDT
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By Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - If you thought that the world's biggest architecture show would be about buildings, this year's Venice Architecture Biennale has a few surprises in store.

Highlights include a steel ramp sneaking into a cloud, a pitch-black room where water falls from a swirling hose and a tower of metal cages from which one can jump into the void -- setting the tone for a show that, in a break with the past, this time focuses on people and space.

Set in the 16th century rope-making factory of the Venice navy, the Biennale mixes design with art installation and has pavilions from 53 countries, plus around 50 works from some of the world's top names in the business.

This edition is directed for the first time by a woman, Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima. The winner of this year's prestigious Pritzker Prize, Sejima and her Sanaa studio are best known for designing the New Museum in New York and the undulating Rolex Learning Center of Lausanne.

The initial reaction by critics to her Biennale has been generally positive, with many praising the show as entertaining and atmospheric and welcoming the break with previous text-heavy, worthy exhibitions.

One of the most popular works is "Cloudscapes," by Japanese architect Tetsuo Kondo and engineers Transsolar, where visitors climb through layers of vapor on a 70-meter long ramp, and feel changes in temperature and humidity as they go.

"This is a place to experience a real cloud from below, within and above," say the authors.

"SORRY, IT'S BROKEN"   Continued...