The 17th Venice Biennale’s Architectural division asks that very question and countries across the globe with a pavilion playing ode to each of their countries tries to answer that very question within the climes of architecture. The question remains a pertinent one considering the pandemic situation across the globe and every country tries to answer that very question very appropriately. The German pavilion for one has no material except for QR scan codes pasted on the walls making the point of digitation and physical absence abundantly clear. There is nothing that leaves the indelible mark of the pandemic absent from out lives and from the biennale. As we spend more time locked down in our homes, architecture has emerged an important aspect, a key discipline in the global corona virus response.
The curator perhaps meant how will we like together, with each other, in such close proximity, within the confines of our humble homes, that have doubled up, lets say more rightly tripled and also quadrupled up into work places, entertainment spaces, leisure spaces and fitness spaces, serving multiple roles, living through minus the public space, the breathing spaces in the cities, within close quarters at times quarantined. To me the question sounds more like how will we live together with the virus? Just like we live through umpteen viruses that we are accustomed to or even immune to? Vaccination is the answer, for sure, a shot of immunity, that will keep us away from the clutches of mortality or through the domains of architecture do we like all the past civilisations aim for immortality through architecture, through our environs, more specifically our built environs.
As homes begin to be remodelled will it suffice to say that it certainly is time for workspaces to be remodelled as well to allow for living with the virus, without causing us harm. There is more to understand of COVID-19 as the world continues to battle wave after wave. All the vaccinations developed in the world are disease-modifying and serve no purpose in disease-breaking or battling nature, something that provides more cues than ever of the fact that we will have to live with this, together and beat it in a very different way. Even when the government asks us to be masked within the confines of our homes, we are positioned to be aware of the nature of the virus where we are all by ourselves, and have to be self-sufficient just like our homes or workplaces. If its in the air, then well, filters are the need of the hour, if its in the water then again filters are the need of the hour, but even with filtering in the world that we perceive, the inner environment needs to certainly be ready to win over the virus without battling with it.
Then what would make sense? Living in pods aka the astronaut costumes that are donned in space? Or in one acre homes like what Jane Jacobs advocated at one point of time, where we grow our own vegetables and live totally oblivious to our surroundings? Or do we work on our immune systems to disengage the virus should it attend to us? Like the yogis disappear into the mountains away from the humdrum of daily lives? Build our world within worlds and as we distance ourselves from each other physically, get closer than ever in the confines of our digital spaces? And in these digital times, vacation meaning getting off social media for a while, that could probably be the only vacation we take during these times! Living together, takes on whole new meanings, living together could also mean fusing back into a community if we have been on our own depending on the nature of need, of our loved ones, of our requirements and everything else.
However we may choose to live together, it has to be with a degree of tolerance, more than any other tolerance, with immune tolerance to the virus. Till then, we need to maintain what every healthcare personal advices us to. My favorites from the pavilions this year were the Japanese pavilion, paying heed to materiality in construction, building with materials that are nimble, quick-footed and light, easily changeable, making it abundantly clear that when the time strikes living together may mean change, the German pavilion that starkly pays heed to the growing digital importance in the world where physical closeness is shunned and the British pavilion with fine metal work in gorgeous colors and fine craftsmanship put together in arty shapes and modules than gives an insight into how solitude in nature is not loneliness for nature is a great company and a pretty thing too!
P.s. For more information on the Venice Biennale that runs all the way till November this year check out the following link.
And take your pick of your likeable pavilion!