A Roof for Silence - The Lebanese Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia
In the context of the Lebanese Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Hala Wardé, the architect and founder of HW Architecture, who realized the Louvre Abu Dhabi with Jean Nouvel, presents A Roof for Silence at the Magazzino del Sale (Zattere), from May 22nd to November 21st, 2021.
Selected in the first public competition launched by the Lebanese authorities to represent Lebanon, Hala Wardé's proposal was chosen on October 16, 2019 by a committee of experts appointed by the Ministry of Culture and the Federation of Lebanese Engineers and Architects.
Echoing the question « How will we live together? » as raised by Hashim Sarkis, curator of this 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Hala Wardé tackles the issue of coexistence through a questioning of the spaces of silence, and by putting into dialogue architecture, painting, music, poetry, video and photography.
The Lebanese Pavilion is conceived as a musical score, resonating disciplines, shapes and periods to provoke the sensory experience of a thought, articulated around the notions of emptiness and silence, as temporal and spatial conditions of architecture. A « Revelationary » installation as per Paul Virilio's definition, in tribute to the renowned thinker and urbanist.
Treated as a manifesto for a new form of architecture, Hala Wardé's project is based on the cryptic shapes of a group of sixteen olive trees that are a thousand years old in Lebanon. These legendary trees, whose hollowed forms are home to various species, are the tutelary figure of the Lebanese Pavilion. They are places of recollection or gathering, where peasants have convened for generations to decide on village affairs or to celebrate weddings.
Questioning the territorial and urbanistic approach to emptiness, Hala Wardé's architectural project starts off with the « Antiforms » of Paul Virilio, theorist of the acceleration of time and the disintegration of territories. It resonates with Paul Virilio's « Antiforms » paintings, spaces of in-between figure and ground with the graphic representation of the olive trees, as well as with that of the imprint of the sudden Port of Beirut explosion, on August 4th 2020. It finds its centerpiece in a central room, the highest point of the experience, conceived around an artwork by the poet and artist Etel Adnan: a set of sixteen canvases entitled « Olivéa, Hommage à la déesse de l’olivier ».
A Roof for Silence, which will be unveiled for the first time at the Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice, will continue its cultural itinerary in different cities around the world. As a first step, it will be the subject of a temporary exhibition at the National Museum of Beirut, during the inauguration of its new wing built by the Fondation Nationale du Patrimoine for the promotion of architectural and artistic heritage. It will then be presented at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Finally, the project has a social and heritage dimension. Initiatives and mobilization campaigns will be organized within the context of the Biennale to raise awareness among the public and the international community of experts and architects about the rehabilitation of the damaged architectural and cultural heritage of the city of Beirut.
The Lebanese Pavilion will thus offer its platform to the Beirut Heritage Initiative, an independent and inclusive collective created after the Beirut blast of the 4th of August 2020, to restore the built and cultural heritage of the city.
The architectural arrangement of the Lebanese Pavilion is integrated into the space of the Magazzino del Sale following a rigorous geometry and rhythm. It unfolds in four stages:
• On an introductory wall, Paul Virilio's « Antiforms », an exploration of space and absent matter, are set against photogrammetric records of thousand-year-old trees and black and white photographic prints of olive trees in Lebanon by Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkoury.
• On the ground, a trail of glass. Imprints or fractal traces of various forms: that of the impact of the Beirut blast in August 2020, a form of emptiness that joins that of the Antiforms or the large-scale graphic prints of the trees' cavities.
• As the visitors move through the exhibition, they are led to a triptych projection of 16 olive trees of Lebanon that are a thousand years old. Filmed in the darkness of the night by Alain Fleischer, filmmaker, photographer and visual artist, these olive trees offer a sensory experience of emptiness and light, accompanied by a musical creation by the sound artists Soundwalk Collective.
• Walking through these images, visitors are led into the central room: an octagonal floor plan, but with a cylindrical interior space, where the 16 canvases of Etel Adnan's poem-in-painting « Olivéa : Hommage à la déesse de l’olivier » are on display. The artist does not show a particular olive tree but rather the feeling inspired by this legendary tree that has accompanied the Mediterranean civilizations. Crowned with a semi-spherical roof bordered by light, this space embodies the possibility of an « essential » place: a « Roof for Silence ».