Last year I had the opportunity to visit the Venice Biennale, and was really struck by the German pavilion. In contemporary art I remember talking about the history of the German pavilion, so I was interested to see how it would be transformed. The 2016 biennale was for architecture and Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country focused on how architects were creating housing for refugees entering Germany as an arrival city. Arrival cities are places where refugees find themselves after they’ve been displaced, and an arrival city’s ability to transition refugees to immigrants measures its effectiveness.
This exhibition was a more confrontational approach to addressing the role that Germany plays in international conflict post WWII. As a nation that made the decision to welcome all refuges, it marks an important shift in political ideology for Germany. However, the current refugee crisis marks the largest migration of people in history. These refugee’s home countries are no where near a peaceful conclusion and thus there is no return home in sight for these displaced people. While the current solution for many arrival cities is to make cheap refugee houses that are temporary. The Berlin based architecture firm Something Fantastic works to create refugee houses that are not only cheap and easily constructed, but houses that feel like home and last for many years.
The 2016 Biennale focused on how countries are adapting to their unique architectural needs, and for many pavilions this led to the issue of refugee housing. However, the German pavilion featured no models or renderings of ideas for houses. Instead they used photos of the neighborhoods, people, and an archive of homes they already built. They decided to send a more political message, and focus on the issue of refugees first and housing second. To convey this the German pavilion was physically altered for this biennale, and the the doors in the pavilion were removed to provide a permanent entrance as a symbol for the countries open doors to refugees.