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On Friday evening at 6 p. Exactly one hour later, and one island away on La Giudecca, a group of international architects and deers opened the doors on an unsanctioned exhibition devoted to cruising — as in, for sex.
Needless to say, there is no Friday night in Venice like one spent traipsing around exhibitions devoted to quiet prayer and the pursuit of sex. Twenty minutes before the show a crush of well-heeled partygoers is already trying to hold off the dampening effects of the evening heat by fanning themselves with their embossed Vatican invitations. The crowd grows so dense — easily in the hundreds — that when we are finally admitted into the garden, the mass of humanity moves along the path like a slow procession of super stylish penitents.
This inspires the woman next to me to describe her pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I would tell you more about her experiences, but my Italian is rusty. Throngs of passersby snap pictures. A few sit on the unusual pew which, for the record, is more uncomfortable than a regular wood pew. At that moment, all discussion of architecture goes out the window as everyone whips out their cellphones to grab a picture. Throughout the evening, Ravasi is treated like a rock star. He stops to view and regally pose at each chapel, unleashing a rush for cameras all along the route.
This means that some chapels briefly turn into paparazzi scrums. But they are holy paparazzi scrums. Because nothing will leave you feeling closer to God than fighting off an Italian TV crew for the best shot. And while some of the chapels feel more cosmic than others — all offer singular experiences. A concrete barrel-like vault deed by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic looks brutal, but its warm acoustics attributed to an interior lined with paper-mache provide a comforting sense of shelter once you stand within its walls.
An open-air chapel by Spanish architects Eva Prats and Ricardo Flores has strategic cut-outs to admit heavenly sunlight and glimpses of trees, while a geometric structure by Pritzker Prize-winning British architect Norman Foster makes dramatic use of the outdoors. Its rippling, slatted wood walls frame views of the water and the island of Lido in the distance. But perhaps most remarkable is the structure by Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, who erected a simple travertine temple that descends into the ground.
As the society ladies all around us begin to realize that at this architectural party there will be only good spiritual vibes and no Campari spritz, we figure it might be a good idea to beat them to the water taxi before the lines get too long. Our next stop: the unofficial Cruising Pavilionstaged at the nonprofit Spazio Punch gallery on Giudecca island. Organized by a gaggle of four European curators, the show examines the ways in which LGBTQ culture has appropriated semi-public locales such as bars, baths and clubs to create safe spaces for the pursuit of sex.
If the Vatican show had taken us into the light, the Cruising Pavilion takes us right into the dark — a warehouse gallery transformed into an environment reminiscent of a throbbing, multilevel queer club.
It might be easy to consider the Cruising Pavilion a bit of architectural spit-balling — a subject intended to poke fun at the stuffier projects in the sanctioned exhibits at Outdoor sex Venice Biennale across the canal. But that is not the case. The show indeed approaches its subject with humor. One theater-like installation mixes clips of an old Marguerite Duras film about lonely Parisians chatting on abandoned World War II-era phone lines with snippets of gay Outdoor sex Venice.
But the Cruising Pavilion also treats its thesis with earnestness — presenting the ways in which LGBTQ people have shaped space and the ways in which architecture has therefore in turn shaped space for them. One small installation is an examination of the ways in which public toilets have been deed and employed by the public over time. Another presents the architectural schematics for a gay club called the Boiler in London deed by Studio Karhard.
There is also an experimental examination of glory holes. Dim lighting makes it difficult to spend too much time reading the presented texts. This is about the human desire for sex after all. Which is ultimately what makes the Cruising Pavilion an engaging all-encompassing work of art.
In their statement, the curators note that social media apps such as Grindr have begun to supplant the physical spaces once apported to cruising. And gay bars and other queer social spaces have been in decline.
Cruising Pavilion highlights the importance of tangible, physical space — space in which humans could connect without a technological intermediary. I turn on my phone light and discover all manner of detritus: condoms, crumpled tissues and pieces of clothing that seemed to have been hastily shed. Whatever went down in this space — or the many spaces that it evokes — it had been one excellent party. A new U. The women at the helm of 's Venice Architecture Biennale and the unexpected generosity of de. Seven of the most intriguing national pavilions to see at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
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Already a subscriber? Your support makes our work possible. Thank you. Carolina A. Miranda is a Los Angeles Times columnist covering culture, with a focus on art and architecture.
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Detail from an outdoor chapel by Spanish architects Eva Prats and Ricardo Flores at an exhibition of architectural commissions organized by the Vatican. By Carolina A. Miranda Columnist. The best part: Anyone who walks in the door can pick up a free condom.
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