How to teleport between the canals and former shipyards and armoires of the Venetian Arsenale, and the wiry, fragrant Australian bush? The two vastly different but equally storied environments have been poetically linked in Somewhere Other – John Wardle Architects’ (JWA) layered and captivating installation for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition.

The Melbourne-based practice was invited by curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara to exhibit at the Arsenale and to respond to this year’s biennale subject: ‘Freespace’. Somewhere Other is JWA’s interpretation of the curator’s Freespace manifesto – a work that celebrates “architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity.”

The concertina timber structure, framed in delicate steel work, is made up of passageways and corridors that become an eye-piece or telescope to peer between two worlds. Visitors are drawn in to gaze through five different portals designed to transfer them Down Under and back to Venice again. Each portal plays with perspective and reflection to extend the space of the installation, with ques and references that capture both Venice and Australia.

The spotted gum structure evokes the true scent of the bush, while a ‘Venetian portal’ features embedded chrome cone tapering outward, and an enormous mouth-blown burnt orange Murano glass tube created by Venetian master glassblower Leonardo Cimolin. Another portal features masks that are culturally significant to each place: the classic hook-nosed Venetian mask, and the iron helmet of legendary bushranger Ned Kelley. Also included is Australian artist Natasha Johns-Messenger’s mirrors, and ethereal films by Melbourne-based creative studio, Coco and Maximilian. Joinery is by Jacaranda Industries, and steel by Derek John.

“Somewhere Other is an elaborate instrument to bridge across distance, it invites the visitor to enter and experience ‘somewhere other’ spatially rather than simply as an object,” John Wardle explained. “Our intention is to connect the visitor with places beyond the immediate space.”


Curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, Freespace, runs from 26 May to 25 November.


Related: Reporting From The Front: Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.


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[Images courtesy of John Wardle Architects. Photography by Peter Bennetts.]


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