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Design // Boano Prišmontas 

Special Thanks to // Davide Tommaso Ferrando, Sara Favargiotti, Daniel Tudor Munteanu; the Little Italy group; Ilaria, Sissi e Federico; all inhabitants at Giudecca’s Social Housing Complex, in particular Marisa, Giovanni and the kids that now want to be architects.

Unfolding Pavilion 2018, Gino Valle’s Social Housing Complex, Giudecca, Venice

What is space in architectural terms? Gino Valle relied on a spatial grid of 165x165cm to regulate all spatial relations of Giudecca’s Social Housing complex. Our installation aims to exhibit the process of abstraction and rational control over the space that happens in the architect’s mind. Our goal is to expose this process in the real world, showing that the lines once drawn on the paper are not only symbols, grammar, language, but they ‘are’ space, they ‘are’ architecture. Lines and distances become squares, walls, structure, room sizes, alignments and imperceptible void boundaries that host our existence and shape our perception of space.

The Unfolding Pavilion is an event that takes place every year in Venice during the Biennale. This year it temporarily inhabited one of the most spectacular architectures of Venice, Gino Valle’s Social Housing Complex (1984-86).

It is actually remarkable that a city like Venice has been able in multiple instances to deal with its lumbering past and overwhelming beauty, opening opportunities for contemporary architectures that often dealt with the “housing” issues. The iconic perception of Venice might lead to think that everything here is atypical and somehow suspended on an imaginary world. Instead, Venice like Dubai struggles to focus its relation with “reality” and like London it fails to answer to the housing crisis. Of course, the  comparison might sound like an excessive stretch, but we specially insist to compare Venice with the rest of the world to highlight how, in our opinion, the city is alive, real and active, and full of inhabitants that are willing to proudly claim and defend their right to stay on the island.


Unfortunately, the precious and fragile beauty of Venice, doesn’t cope well with the fast evolving dynamic of the world and the city almost inevitably had to consolidate its identity as a theme park at the mercy of tourism. But this is not the real Venice.


For these reasons we were very pleased that the Unfolding Pavilion 2018 took place in Giudecca, one of the most “authentic” part of the city, close to the futile and superfluous echoes of the Biennale, but rooted instead in a venetian working class urban fabric.

During these days the “unreality” of Venice stopped being an issue. Crowds of tourists were replaced by flocks of seagulls and Venice was seen as a distant shoreline, almost like a background screen of a theatre stage. The assembling of 165x165 has been a moment of exchange with the local inhabitants. Giovanni, a proud old sailor and rock’n’roll dancer, the curious kids trying to understand what architects precisely do, and Enrico complaining about the houses conditions.


Our installation tiptoed in a microcosm of real Venetian life and established a dialogue about life and architecture. Some inhabitants proudly knew who Gino Valle was. Whilst others just focused their attention on criticizing the houses and their poor status of maintenance. Anyway, everyone became fascinated about the installation and wanted to find out more about the house where they lived.

In a time of massive social housing crisis and ubiquitous gentrification, we lived this moment as a beautiful and unique opportunity to meet people and discerns about cities, identities and architecture as a discipline that ultimately has to (also) deliver the spaces where we live.

165x165, used 180m of led strips running in customised channels and fixed on bespoke connectors especially crafted for this occasion. Our intention was to bring a magical and evocative atmosphere in a local working-class campiello (square) of Venice. 165x165 is an installation for the people that aims to give hope to the future that awaits Venice and its citizens.

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