Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintans
In Dialogue
Venecia, Italia
Wrapped by the mighty brick shell of the Spanish Pavilion, the contained and intuitive installation of steel frames, photos, and axonometric drawings provides the backdrop for the conversation.

The Spanish Pavilion, curated by Iñaqui Carnicero (Madrid, 1973) and Carlos Quintáns (Muxía, 1962), has won the Golden Lion to the Best National Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. Its title, ‘Unfinished,’ and its central theme, architecture after the crisis, seemed to announce another critical, if not masochistic, analysis of Spanish architecture today, but fortunantely it hasn’t been so. On a shoestring budget Carnicero and Quintáns have managed to highlight the general theme of the Biennale directed by the latest Pritzker Prize laureate Alejandro Aravena – with his emphasis on modest projects, his defense of the social role of architects, and an inevitable focus on Latin America –, but most importantly, they have managed to spread a positive message about Spain, and make it get through: the idea that beyond the critique of excess, architects have adapted to the at first glance unrewarding context of small refurbishments, adaptations, or grafts, without giving up the quality that once seemed to be exclusive to large public buildings.
_x005F_x000D_ Optimism has in this way made its way into the Spanish exhibition, a sober and attractive installation featuring fifty works carried out with a tight budget and an evolutionary purpose, grouped into nine categories that take stock of the recent architectural scene in our country. With the pavilion as backdrop, and still showing undisguised joy after winning the golden statuette, Carnicero and Quintáns talk about the purpose of their exhibition, and about the challenges they had to face to convey an at once critical and hopeful message without falling back on the clichés associated with the crisis.

Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintans  - IMG 3378 30
©Miguel Galiano

Carlos Quintáns (CQ): The truth is that coming to Venice is a beautiful adventure. Of the three biennials Spain takes part in (the Spanish one, the Ibero American one and the Venice Biennale), I think this one is the most intense and stimulating, because it allows to convey the message beyond local frontiers. In this particular edition we were fortunate to have a general coordinator for the three biennials, one who has made the effort of arranging the contents, trying to find the way of offering an original and complementary message in each one of them. _x005F_x000D_
Iñaqui Carnicero (IC): Pachi Mangado has managed to construct a fitting argument for three very different biennials, and we must also mention the role of the Biennale’s director, Alejandro Aravena, who has chosen to share rather than to display his own work, and has invited us all to do the same. Thanks to this we have been able to hear about the problems in each country over the past years, learning a lot in the process. The collective has prevailed over the individual in this exhibition. In all areas. _x005F_x000D_

CQ: The primary focus was to show a collective project, to transform all those sad years into a ray of optimism. This is, I think, what has drawn more attention in our installation: how it shows the potential of so many Spanish architects, of so many works. We wanted the world to discover buildings that we know well, all works of high quality, which in Spain we take for granted. The Venice Biennale had to be a showcase of this effort. _x005F_x000D_ This showcase is a simple structure of galvanized steel frames that take up the space provided by the powerful architecture of the existing pavilion, creating a grid where photographs and plans are placed (one photograph and one axonometric drawing per work). The result is a sort of chaotic cartography that bombards visitors, but also captures their attention. _x005F_x000D_
IC: Many people didn’t understand it at first. They thought we were criticizing the situation, when it was quite the opposite. The selection of photographs, aside from documenting a harsh reality, is filled with optimisim and highly suggestive visions. The images call to action, they are innovative proposals that have managed to discover revealing actions in these architectures._x005F_x000D_

Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintans  - IMG 3359 32
©Miguel Galiano
Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintans  - IMG 3424 34
©Miguel Galiano

CQ: At first we feared that handling so many works and projects could produce a complete cacophony with no sense of unity. The challenge was to convey a sense of unity. _x005F_x000D_
IC: Yes, this was the most complicated thing. I remember that the first thing we did was to visit the pavilion in order to establish a dialogue with the existing and a balance between the amount of architecture we had to produce and what was already there. What people understand after visiting the pavilion is that it is a very good building, a space that works as it should, and also, that the exhibition is carried out with very few means. _x005F_x000D_
CQ: It was surprising to hear someone comment that this exhibition had managed to give the building, or the perception of the building, a dignity that in other exhibitions had remained hidden. In our view it was the best container possible for this exhibition. _x005F_x000D_
IC: It is fantastic because it is very versatile. I remember when we decided that we didn’t want a static exhibition, so we brought in the idea of movement in some components, and added the small motor that lifts the whole structure of the photographs. Today, the exhibitions hall is transformed into an impromptu assembly room for debates, talks or roundtables, favoring the exchange of ideas that this biennial encounter promotes. _x005F_x000D_

Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintans  - IMG 3434 36
©Miguel Galiano
Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintans  - IMG 3442 38
©Miguel Galiano

CQ The height of the central space is extraordinary. We were lucky to find it completely bare and have the opportunity to discover its possibilities. _x005F_x000D_
IC: This links up with a subject that comes up often of late: the danger of falling on a povera aesthetic, an aesthetic of ruin, on something more banal. At the beginning we wanted to bare the walls to expose the brick, but now, months later, we feel it would have been a mistake, don’t you think?_x005F_x000D_
CQ It would have been a mistake, and a fiction: jeans are best worn out by use, not by trying to make them look used. _x005F_x000D_ Powerful and intuitive thanks to is synthetic and direct character, the exhibition of photographs and drawings might seem a bit succinct, but in fact the information physically presented in the artistic installation is only the tip of the iceberg, and there is actually a huge amount of data and works gathered after an open selection process that can be explored on the pavilion’s website, so there are several reading levels. _x005F_x000D_
IC: We wanted the message to be read at different speeds: some people want a clear message from the beginning, graspable in less than thirty seconds, but others prefer to delve into the works and learn from them. I am quite pleased with the three levels of perception, which begin at the pavilion and end on the website. _x005F_x000D_
CQ There was a lot of information, that is true, and we had to be very generous with that information. That is why we have to analyze how the website has worked over these days, to understand how the exhibition has worked. _x005F_x000D_
IC: There are controversial and tough subjects, perhaps without a clear answer. While visiting the pavilion Rafael Moneo pondered on an issue that had been very important for us from the beginning: finding a format in which all the works are displayed at the same level. We chose a photograph and an axonometric drawing. He wondered to what extent this information could be enough to understand a project, and we on the other hand had not doubt that overall unity was more important than hierarchy. _x005F_x000D_
CQ Exactly, feeling that there was a shared course of action. _x005F_x000D_
IC: We didn’t want to show a specific architect or school, but to convey a message: a positive message, open to our present time and to the complex future ahead. _x005F_x000D_

Iñaqui Carnicero & Carlos Quintans  - IMG 3313 40
©Miguel Galiano

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