Thoughts Form Matter | Austrian Pavilion - La Biennale di Venezia

The Austrian contribution Thoughts Form Matter is set in the context of an intensified focus on in-between and open spaces. In their contributions, the three invited teams of LAAC, Henke Schreieck and Sagmeister & Walsh interpret “Freespace”, the general theme of this year’s Architecture Biennale, as a both spatial and intellectual construct, as a complex, dynamic system, as an adaptable sphere characterised by coexistence. Three spatial installations that partly blend into each other materialise or visualise concepts such as “divergence”, “atmosphere” and “beauty”.

LAAC approaches free space in the form of spatial divergence. A circular area is inscribed into the pavilion. Given the curvature of this area, it becomes apparent that the segment of a sphere transcending space and time is revealed at its surface. The reflection of the sphere tells us of multi-facetted relations. With a walk-through wooden structure and a light room, Henke Schreieck create two different atmospheres in two identical rooms: tight and light, stable and fragile, structural and poetic, bright and dark, west and east meet in the form of different spatial qualities. The third contribution, designed by Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, asks the question for aesthetic standards that architecture must meet and the need for beauty in everyday life.

Thoughts Form Matter is a plea for the driving force of architecture as an intellectual exploration and for the freedom to conceive spaces also without heeding functionalist and economic constraints.

“In this contribution to the Biennale Architettura 2018 we are focussing on the significance of public spaces for the city. The role of architects is essential here because design happens far too often without creating added value for public life. Architecture is not a service activity.
It is a profession which must be practised with responsibility, intellectual e! ort and aesthetic sensitivity. And it also involves a plea for form because architecture is not the art of fitting in; it is not better, the less visible it is.
We want to celebrate architecture as form and architecture as content in equal measure.”

Verena Konrad
Commissioner and Curator of the Austrian Contribution to the Architecture Biennale 2018


→ Cities are largely defined by their public spaces. It is here that a range of user expectations come together. The aim of urban design is to find a balance, to act with an eye to the future and Cities are largely defined by their public spaces. It is here that a range of user expectations come together. The aim of urban design is to find a balance, to act with an eye to the future and to increase the attention given to public space. Public space is social space. And this is precisely why design is so important. In terms of architectural language, the quality of public space is defined by the balance between space and place, by convincing materials and by major urban design signals as much as by spontaneous and informal gestures. And, always, by high aesthetic aspirations.


The three invited teams – LAAC, Henke Schreieck and Sagmeister & Walsh – address urban spaces and architecture as built landscape. And they do this with great consistency, with self-assurance, with the highest qualitative aspirations and with a great respect for cooperation and interdisciplinarity. A common feature of their work is that their interventions – whether these are architectural, urban or emerge from the logic of the design – are built not in the city but as extensions of it. This approach also enables the notion of the common good to emerge in the shape of a focus on the public interest that is playing an increasingly important role in the current architectural debate.


For the Austrian Contribution to the Biennale Architettura the three conceptual teams will develop an interdependent spatial installation in three parts. In doing this we will refer directly to the theme “Freespace” and address the significance of free spaces for urban contexts. While not alluding to real architectures, we will be working with real spaces – spaces which should enable us to recognise the qualities that these architects and designers are seeking to create with their work: the convergence of outside and inside, vertical and horizontal connections, the historical pavilion and the language of contemporary architecture and design.


→ “Freespace”, the title given by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara to the Biennale Architettura 2018, describes “generosity of spirit” and humanity as the central aspects of an architectural agenda that concentrates on the quality of space. It also places a focus on mutual exchange and influence between architecture, the users of architecture, nature and natural resources.


Their exhibition in Venice will present built and unbuilt spaces that will essentially employ socio-political questions as the starting point for addressing the issues of spatial quality and architectural beauty. This should make it possible to understand architecture better, to encourage the discussion of architectural core values and to turn the spotlight back onto architecture’s proven and sustainable contribution to humanity.

Commissioner and Curator | Biography
Verena Konrad, born 1979, studied history of art, history and theology at the University of Innsbruck.
Assistant at the Institute for Architectural Theory and History of Building, Innsbruck. She has lectured at the University of Innsbruck (architectural theory, history of art), the University of Art and Design Linz (Space & Design Strategies) and Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences (InterMedia) and worked as a curator at Galerie im Taxispalais and Kunsthalle Wien and as a freelance art historian.
Verena Konrad has headed the vai Vorarlberger Architektur Institut since 2013. 

“Freespace”_16th International Architecture Exhibition 
Curators: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara
26 May—25 November 2018
Thoughts Form Matter: Austria’s contribution to the Biennale di Venezia 2018
Commissioner and curator Verena Konrad 
Teams  LAAC,  Henke SchreieckSagmeister & Walsh
Website of the contribution
Opening of the Austrian Pavilion: 24 May 2018, 3:00 p.m. 

read more about La Biennale di Venezia 2018 here!