When you think about it, a swimming pool is much more than a place that holds memories of long, lazy summer afternoons. In Australia, the humble pool is often an important Indigenous site. It is a place for reflection, a natural sanctuary – but at the same time, a scene of civic and national pride. Pools can be tiny water holes or big quarries; inland or coastal; public or private; natural or meticulously designed.
This very complex place formed the winning idea for the Australian exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. A young team of architects, Aileen Sage (Isabelle Toland and Amelia Sage Holliday) with urban strategist Michelle Tabet – who are participants in our creative spaces program – will be representing the country at the prestigious international forum.
Their winning proposal The Pool speaks to a particular Australian social and cultural meaning. “Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth, so our obsession with water is not surprising.
“The pool is a point of connection for many Australians, as the universal appeal of water and the many dramatic, picturesque, unique and invigorating contexts in which we experience it, holds such a strong pull of inspiration,” said Isabelle Toland, Aileen Sage co-director.
The team’s exhibition will transport visitors poolside, through an immersive sensory experience created with water, light, scent and sound. It will place a pool inside the pavilion and through reflection and optical trickery extend the space to create a feeling of vastness.
The team was inspired by the curatorial approach of the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale creative director, Kazuyo Sejima, who featured a number of projects that intersected architecture, art and installation. “This is an approach that we often engage with in our architectural practice and one we felt would be particularly appropriate for this project. We wanted to create an immersive and memorable experience that would tap into the memories and stories of many,” commented Toland.
The daily collaboration at the William Street Creative Hub was an important part of the creative process for Aileen Sage and Michelle Tabet: “Michelle brings to our proposal a broader strategic vision not just to the content of the project, but also to the proposal itself as an international platform to present Australian contemporary architecture,” said Toland.
And this isn’t the first time the duo are collaborating with the other creative enterprises at William Street – fashion designers Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett of Romance was Born are assisting on the Venice Biennale project. The architects are also working with construction specialists Lochbuild to renovate City-supported Firstdraft Gallery, have created a temporary exhibition for Art Month with artist in residence Tara Maranowsky and are currently in discussions with Tabet to collaborate on other urban and architectural projects.
The Australian Pavilion presented at the 2016 Biennale is the first pavilion to be built at Giardini in Venice in the 21st century, so it is placed to garner considerable international attention. Our Australian representatives are particularly looking forward to joining forces with their extended team which has been drawn from a range of fields – architecture, planning, art and science.
“We are honoured to be selected for this project, especially considering the strength of the other shortlisted proposals. This event is a great opportunity to highlight the country’s varied expertise and growing reputation for progressive architecture,” said Toland.