Only one percent of Australia’s diverse grasslands that existed in 1788 now remains. The installation Grassland Repair at Venice Biennale 2018 hopes to help change that.
Curated by Mauro Baracco and Louise Wright of Baracco+Wright Architects, the installation features 10,000 plants, including 65 various grassland species, effectively turning a pavilion into a green setting.
It’s based on artist Linda Tegg’s previous work, which sought to recreate the grassy plains once abundant during the time of European settlement on the site where the State Library of Victoria now stands.
“It aims to reveal what is at stake when we occupy land,” the curators told Dezeen. “The area of plants exhibited is similar to that taken up by the pavilion. It is also a smaller area than that of an average Australian family house. Such an area takes around an hour to bulldoze.”
The plants are supplemented by other installations, such as Ground, a series of experimental videos on 15 architectural projects that explore the concept of repair. There’s also Skylight, which uses LED lights as a “life-support system” for the plants inside the pavilion.
The curators hope that with Grassland Repair, a discussion will start on how we go about architecture and occupying natural landscapes.
“The use of land for buildings is no small act,” they said. “There is a role for architecture to actively engage with the repair of the places it is part of: the soil, hydrology, habitat, connections, overland water flow, microorganisms, vegetation and so on.
“This type of repair is critical to enacting other wider types of social, economic and cultural repair.”
We recently spoke to Baracco and Wright to learn more about Grassland Repair. Take a look:
What was the inspiration behind the grasslands installation?
“This work is called Grassland Repair, and is in collaboration with Linda Tegg. It extends a work she did in 2014 called Grassland. To present a grassland that used to be where Melbourne now is, and of which only one percent remains, that has gone undervalued, to so show the ‘ground’ anew as a site for more than human use.
“Architects don’t often think carefully about the ground they take up – and so we are provoking them to look at what also occupies the ground so that we might use it differently.”
How difficult was it making the installation? How long did it take for you to complete the project?
“It was very involved. Getting seed was difficult, we had to also get it all inspected before exporting it. We helped to sow it at an agricultural school in Sanremo Italy, Agrario di Aicardi, because they have a similar climate to Melbourne.
“It took around eight months to grow there and then we transported it by truck and boat to Venice. Mauro Baracco, Linda Tegg, David Fox and I (and a lot of others) physically made the installation.”
What do you hope for this work to become or mean for people?
“For some, it will just be enjoyable at the physical/sensory level, a room full of plants is very experiential, but for those who engage a little more, this room is full of melancholy, of a plant community that is being bulldozed still now. We invite one to reconsider the ground and what is displaced through human use of it. We hope this new perspective can change how we use it.”
In your firm, what role does green building play into your work?
“We don’t really think about green buildings in the way it has been promoted in the past 10 years. We try to make buildings that do not degrade where they are, and work simply and passively in terms of ‘sustainablility’. We look at the site at hand and think through the possibilities and opportunities, we always look for an opportunity to either increase, strengthen, connect, protect, or rehabilitate vegetated space.”
Lastly, what do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability? And how can we address that challenge?
“We suggest that, in addition to sustainability, that actively repairing is required. The barrier to repairing is knowledge and probably time. Repair takes time.”
The exhibition is ongoing at the Australian Pavilion and will run until 25 November 2018. You can learn more about Grassland Repair and the Venice Architecture Biennale here.