My proposal for an exhibition at the British Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Biennale responded to the overarching theme of 'freespace' by exploring the role that the patronage of architecture plays in enabling its civic function. To what extent can architecture be 'generous and thoughtful', 'uplifting' or 'nurture and support meaningful contact' thanks to, or in-spite of, the specific conditions of its patronage?
The exhibition proposal focussed on the evolution of the public library - itself a 'freespace' from a financial perspective - through the 20th Century in the UK, from the controversially philanthropic libraries of the Victorian industrialists, through the social intentions of the welfare state that spawned new spatial typologies to today’s condition of volunteer run provision emerging from the wreckage of austerity. The exhibition proposed an investigate their cultural impact whilst also questioning their future role in an age of limitless information provision made available through the internet.
Each of the 8 rooms of the Pavilion would be inhabited with a single precedent representing a moment in this history. Within the room a fragment of the key precedent would be realised at a smaller scale - reconfigured to form a piece of library furniture in its own right and hosting a varied presentation of exemplary British literature. The precedents would include: Birmingham Central Library by John Madin and its replacement, the Library of Birmingham by MECANOO, local libraries designed by Faulkner Brown, Britain’s only library to win the Stirling Prize for architecture - Peckham Library by Will Alsop, a 1/1 scale installation of a mobile library and Seven Stories (The National Centre for Children’s Books) amongst others.