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An exhibition design commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum for a special project at the 2016 Venice Biennale, located inside the Applied Arts Pavilion, a recently restored 16th century pavilion building in the main complex of the Venetian Arsenale.  


Designed in collaboration with the V&A and La Biennale di Venezia, the curatorial narrative explored the threats facing the preservation of global heritage sites and the idea of copying as an act of preservation, referencing the V&A's own Cast Courts and contemporary methods of 3D reproduction.


Visitors to the exhibition are greeted by a huge 1:1 scale reconstruction of a section of the Porta Magna Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna suspended overhead.  This 3m x 6m monumental feature is intended to reflect the monumentality of the various lifesize reproductions exhibited in the V&A's Cast Courts. The arch is composed of 19th century plaster replicas of the original marble panels on the facade of the Basilica.  The missing panels were left absent to remind vistors of the imperfect record that exists.


Inside the exhibition, the main room is divided into two sections, one looking at the V&A collection and one looking at contemporary objects.  The V&A section illustrates a history of copying through methods and examples, the contemporary section showcases a series of works produced through collaboration with a number of different artists, activists and conservators who were invited to contemplate the idea of the copy.  Some projects are straightforward reconstructions, others describe more challenging or disruptive approaches.


Responding to the curatorial narrative and working closely with the curatorial team, the formal character of the exhibition design evolved from ideas of incompleteness, fragility,  partial reconstruction and careful preservation. Walls, tables and plinths are deployed to display curated groups of individual items each with different requirements for their display, some covered, some open, some to be viewed from above.  The walls, tables and plinths are all 'broken' in some way to reveal the fragility of their structures and to suggest incompleteness.


There is also a  conscious attempt to create a critical relationship to the historical context by differentiating the objects on display from their containers, and also in the layout of the display elements themselves, provoking a creative tension with the context of the Venice Biennale itself.



Project by Ordinary Architecture]

A World of Fragile Parts

Victoria & Albert Museum

Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia_1 Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy of La Biennal Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy of La Biennal Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy of La Biennal Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy of La Biennal Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy of La Biennal Photo by Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy of La Biennal