Not only architecture in Venice at the Biennale: an itinerary dedicated to design, 6 exhibitions to understand where research is moving towards

The design on stage in Venice for the Architecture Biennale by Lesley Lokko is a journey through space and time.

They range from the project for the construction of an environmental awareness that finds its natural habitat on the island of Certosa to the discovery of the charm of self-exoticism, which finds a renewed value pleasure. From investigations into the (exhausted) potential of pre-finished and industrial materials, which have come to an end in the post-covid era, to the contemplation of small handcrafted jewels that tell today of yesterday's knowledge.

See also: Architecture Biennale 2023: information, calendar and updates

Because Venice - the Lagoon - is the ideal place in which to plan conceptual exhibitions and design polyphonies, site-specific installations and multicultural events, open to all species. The signatures are of important names, the language more eclectic than ever, a break with tradition, and the fruition is free, accessible, democratic.

It happens to take a seat on the vaporetto and find yourself discussing the common sense of the playground with Emanuele Coccia and Studio Ossidiana. While Domitilla Dardi nods, pointing out from time to time that even Fosbury Architecture could have their say.

Read also: Architecture: how to visit the Venice Biennale 2023

Or cross the threshold of ancient buildings, climb a handful of steps, and discover the charm of the light that caresses tiny grains of sea salt to become a painting: Michele, a passionate young gallery owner, a past in LA and a present in Campo Santo, tells you about it Stefano where he generously opens up to dysfunctional aesthetics. And he explains it to you.

Read also: Fuori Biennale 2023: exhibitions on architecture not to be missed in Venice

Not to mention the exotic charm of the Bocciofila di Dorsoduro: a green space suspended in the greenery where you can go back to being a child, among hyper-decorated mirrors, primitive cement castings and blue furniture totems.

Design in the Laguna is everything and its opposite: a community of philosophers, thinkers and creatives who, like new Tombs, leave remnants of themselves between a calle, a fondamenta, a rio and a salizada. Following in their footsteps is yet another fun and beautiful way of building community.

Nature in BioGrounds, a project curated by Domitilla Dardi for Maxxi

We are on the island of Certosa, easily reached from the Gardens of the Biennale. It must also be due to the environmental heritage, rich in groves of black poplars and ash trees, and tree and shrub species that Domitilla Dardi, historian and project curator choice.

And here, for the Maxxi and in collaboration with Vento di Venezia and the Teatro Stabile del Veneto, he made planing three installations designed to stimulate a new environmental awareness.

It is no coincidence that important names from the contemporary thematic debate stand out: Andrea Anastasio in dialogue with Angela Rui, the Formafantasma with Emanuele Coccia and Beka&Lemoine with Stefano Mancuso. The site-specific intervention for the Alcantara Project by Studio Ossidiana.

Next to the ancient cloister of the convent, well preserved and the only evidence of the monastic complex of the Certosa demolished in the Napoleonic era, the eye is captured by the geometry of a system of tents supported by a light metal structure: it is Seed Bed, a garden in the making.

It is a protected environment designed to encourage interaction between human and non-human species: migratory birds, essential for biodiversity, and visitors who feed it by throwing seeds. Until 15 October 2023.

Materia in Inox Detox, the Soft Baroque collection

The London designer duo chooses Barbati Gallery, Michele Barbati's gallery, inaugurated last year on the occasion of the Art Biennale, to present a new series of objects: Inox Detox is a collection of dysfunctional objects that translate the presence, sometimes gratuitous, of standard stainless steel tubes into our daily lives.

This is how in the hands of Nicholas Gardner and Saša Štucin, handrails become decorative chains for domestic interiors, but also resistant micro-architectures for plexiglass bodies and contrasting piercings on prominent walls.

They are objects that strive not to have an aesthetic, but they manifest a trend and an architectural practice that seem to have reached a dead end.

This common, manipulated, laser-cut and bent material is counterpointed by the tempera and sea water paintings by the American artist Tara Walkers who with Sailing for the Garden Party envelops of luminescence the halls of this crazy space. Until 11 August 2023.

Tradition in 'Massimo Micheluzzi at the Olivetti Shop', edited by Cristina Beltrami

We are in the premises of the historic Olivetti Shop, in Piazza San Marco, which has been entrusted to the care and management of Fai since 2011. Immersing yourself in the architecture of Carlo Scarpa is always a breathtaking emotion, and this collection of 44 vases created by Massimo Micheluzzi is no less: executed in opus sectile and blown glass mosaic, are jewels to touch with your eyes.

Venetian, master of art and craft, Micheluzzi created this family with a complex process that starts with the creation of a plate made up of glass tesserae, fixed by a first passage at high temperature and subsequently blown according to the traditional Murano technique.

The meaning of the project (and of the exhibition) does not lie in the re-proposition of Scarpa's modules and is not a tribute to the architect. Rather it is the story of sharing the same roots, or the attention to detail, so dear to Scarpa too, without losing the overall vision: the city of Venice. Until 24 September 2023.

Spuma/ Space for the Arts

It is the first of the four locations chosen by Francesca Giubilei and Luca Berta for Auto-Exotic, the fourth edition of Venice Design Biennial, the independent event that brings design into dialogue with the language of the Laguna.

The theme of self-exoticism, chosen by the pair of curators, arises from the post-pandemic need to re-appropriate the cultural origins of proximity: exotic is everything that is far away, not so much in terms of physical distance, but mental.

The pieces on display at the Fondamenta San Biagio, on the Giudecca, while exhibiting a strong artisan connotation, investigate the universal strength of the material: the aluminum of Groovido and the stone of Millim Studio are pure elements that define an idea of a primitive house. That resists eras, trends, the passage of time.

“The decline of globalization indicates that the limit of the expansion process has been reached: if there is no longer an outside to conquer, the solution is to self-colonise”, says the curator. Until 18 June 2023.

Sparc* / Contemporary Art Space

We are in Campo Santo Stefano, not far from the Barbati Gallery. Here the Auto-Exotic Home takes center stage, the exotic car house designed by the curators of the Venice Design Biennial: an apartment on the first floor of a period building furnished with pieces with a strong artisan connotation.

"Each of the 70 selected designers has a very strong authorial signature", explains Francesca Giubilei, "which tells of the culture of origin of each of them".

There are bamboo totems, typical of Thai craft, Lebanese terra cotta vases and remnants of Berber culture. But also carpets that translate the sacred symbolism of Buddhism into decoration and structured fabrics that capture solar energy to become nomadic panels.

All different examples that return as many points of view of the exotic. Until 18 June 2023.

Bocciofila di San Sebastiano

But the exotic, for a Venetian in dialogue with the world, is landing with its own event in the Bocciofila di San Sebastiano, in Dorsoduro.

Here, among the pieces by Elena Salmistraro, Lucia Massari and Aina Kari, it is possible to play a game of bowls with the fans of the neighboring calli.

Once again, the aim of the Venice Design Biennial is to combine the discovery of curatorial-intensive design with the experience of the city. Lagoon and definitive.