Statistics as Tool

On of my biggest challenges is to see things early enough, so that when I write about them, you can still check them out yourself. Alas, it is a race against time and sometimes time wins. My students at the Exhibition Design Master in Graz put on a great exhibition, which I saw last week, on its last day. 

Aptly called JakOH!mini it tried to describe an area of town, which despite renewed investments, and concerted efforts, remains undervalued and sadly, unappealing. With statistics and observation, the 17 students captured, through as many installations, different aspects of the Jakomini street. We get noise charts, sun and shadow schemes, paths and colour maps. Clearly I love all my students and consider them all exceedingly bright. But without being partial, the exhibition was clear, well thought out and – most rare – betrayed a sense of humour. What I enjoyed most, was how I was reminded of the importance of observing, analysing and counting data. I tend to be too deductive but deep knowledge is empirical. Long live statistics! 


The Vienna Biennale

No, it’s not a spelling mistake. I still have to see the Venice one but in the meantime I checked out the first Vienna Biennale. It is the latest offering of the MAK which aims to combine Art, Design and Architecture in one event. This year the event is called Ideas for Change and the exhibitions offered aim to question how we want to live our cities in the future. The idea of course is that creativity can improve our way of living, but what transpired is that politics have a lot more to do with change, than the efforts of artists, designers and architects. 

Smart Life in the City proposes alternatives scenarios for key situations in cities like hotels, hospitals, shopping centers, schools, markets etc. With a successfull mixture of text, videos, images and designers’ intervention it creates a thought provoking environment and easy to follow discourse. 

Uneven Growth instead examinse 6 megapolis and how they have successfully developed coping strategies in the last years. Highly scenographic and with diverse and smart graphics, this small exhibition totally captured me. Also, just goes to show that practical examples are much more poignant that theoretica ideas. If we really want to change ideas are not enough!

EXPO: In the Desert


Among all the wooden architecture at the Expo, rose impressive twelve meters high walls made in red fibre glass reinforced concrete. Rippled like gigantic sand dunes and designed to evoke the narrow self-shaded streets of the UAE’s historic settlements, the architecture immediately transported me to a different geography with none of the arabian kitchyness. No wonder since the UAE pavillion was designed by none other than Foster & Partners. 

Once inside, a video perfectly balanced between shrewd advertising and concrete information was following the visitors are treated to state of the art 3D animations on the theme of water. If only the (italian) staff had not been so pushy and commandeering I would have loved every minute of it!

Hansik is a Korean Word

I always tell my students that every exhibition needs to have a “wow effect” element.  You can denigrate this notion as populist but you cannot deny its truth. Things however get interesting when through an attention grabbing intervention, a substantial message with real content is conveyed.

The Korean pavillion at the Expo – after  a series of pseudo artistic installations, a good introductory video and a technological showoff – accompanied the visitors to a room, where wow and information were so well combined, my children had to drag me out.

At the heart of Korean cuisine is hansik, the process of preparing dishes  through fermentation. In the Korean installation, hundred of jars (onggi) were converted in videos. A projection of colours, patterns and images showed how raw ingredients are preserved and transformed through the passing of seasons. With immaculate execution and plenty of feeling the Koreans managed to really convey their eating philosophy.

Fantastischen Welten

Yesterday in Vienna I successfully bargained with my daughter: for every minute at the Zoo we were going to have a minute at the Kunsthistorische. We had two hours looking at polar bears, pandas, koalas and snakes which meant we really took our time at the spectacular exhibition Fantastische Welten

I am not as comfortable with Northern Europe’s high Renaissance as with Italy’s, finding the sharp and angular forms sometimes hard to appreciate. Yet this time I understood the pathos and ingenuity of the compositions. And loved the masterfull way the artists of the time carved wood. 

As you enter the exhibition you will be bewitched by the detailes and expressions of the apostles as they discover the Holy Virgin has ascended to heaven. The figures, carved in wood between 1516 and 1525, are part of the very large altar piece in Zwettl. It looks like I need to add a new destination to my bucket list… 

Breathe Austria

I swear it has nothing to do with the fact I live in Austria, and my husband runs a timber business: the Austria pavillion was simply the best one at EXPO! Entering the unassuming but elegant architecture (made of wood and painted in dark grey), you find yourself in a real forest. The temperature is cool and the air fresh.

Air is the first nutrient we need: you can live 5 weeks without food, 5 days without water but not even 5 minutes wirhout oxygen. Air is precious. This is the message conveyed by the Austrians with simplicity and clarity. Even the graphic project (by Graz superduper En Garde) is informative and stylish. And as you walk around, don’t miss out on a spruce and wild berries icecream!   

First Impressions on EXPO

EXPO opened in Milan on the 1st of May and everything possible has already been written and said. It is a big fair, a circus, exhausting; but it is something you should definitely see. No denying it, there is some incredible architecture – to my joy about half of the pavillions use wood in some form. It is a display of human creativity and ingenuity, and despite all the wastes and annoying commercial aspects, it is a genuine effort by human kind to find new paths and solutions to feeding our planet. 

The theme of food and energy has been explored very differently by everyone involved, and sometimes you might be surprised by the inconsistency of approaches. Some pavillions have opted the emotional display, while others the informative. If you are looking for an educational trip you should not miss the Clusters pavillions where families of foods are presented and smaller countries have the chance to present themselves. 

Austria, Korea, Estland and Emirates were the pavillions I enjoyed the most, but one day is simply not enough and I left eager to come back for more. There is time until the 31st of October!