Kosovo’s first appearance at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which interweaves the past with the future, is winning plaudits.
Combining the ancient art of making jewellery with the modern woes of Kosovo’s urban planning, The Filigree Maker has been turning heads at Kosovo debut appearance at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
Kosovo is one of 60 nations exhibiting at the 13th Biennale, which is open until 25 November.
The Kosovo pavilion uses filigree alongside photographs of prominent architectural sites to represent Kosovo’s post-war chaotic cityscapes, and offer clues about future policy development.
Weaving in between the walls and floors, the filigree creates a web of wires, surrounded by photographs of key sites in Kosovo, Ottoman, communist and modern.
They include the bizarre-looking national library, which has been called one of ten ugliest buildings in the world, and the hamam in Prizren, among others.
A green band wrapped around the central room contains messages sent by people in Kosovo and by visitors to the Biennale, including tweets, texts and emails about the architecture.
Visitors, as well as those using the pavilion website, kosovoinvenice.org, can gauge each photograph by the emotion that it evokes – happy, sad, excited, angry, free or trapped.
The aim of The Filigree Maker is to get visitors and participants across the world to help shape the future appearance of Kosovo.
Perparim Rama, curator of the Kosovo pavilion, told Balkan Insight that as this was the first time that Kosovo was taking part in Venice, the “primary goal, apart from letting the public know about Kosovo architecture, is also interaction.
“For that reason, our pavilion is interactive and invites visitors to become a part of positive changes in the architecture and urbanism of Kosovo,” he said.
Commissioner Bekim Ramku, a leading member of the team and a Kosovo architect, added: “Our pavilion aims to re-interpret filigree and create a barometer of emotions for architecture.”
The art of filigree is an Albanian speciality. It consists of curling, twisting and plaiting fine, pliable threads of precious metal, and uniting them at their points of contact with each other.
The intertwining of the metal at the pavilion aims to convey different meanings, according to curator Rama, for example showing how different people with different backgrounds interact.
Rama, who has lived in Britain for 20 years and has a Masters in Evolutionary Architecture and Urbanism, says Pristina’s urban design needs to be rethought.
He regrets the chaotic development that disfigured the capital after the end of the Kosovo war.
“We need to study more,” he said. “We should see the mistakes and not repeat them.”
The curator of the Biennale, David Chipperfield, set the theme of the 2012 Biennale as “common ground”.
“I have been inspired to focus the Biennale towards issues like continuity, context and memory, towards mutual influences and expectations, and to address the apparent lack of understanding that exists between the profession and society,” he said.
“Common spaces provoke accepting the inspiration and influences that I believe should define our profession,” he added.
“This phrase also directs our attention to the city, which is our area of expertise and it is something created in collaboration with each citizen and participant in the construction process.
“Joint spaces invites us to find ideas that we share, but from different positions.”
Hugo McDonald, design editor for the high-end UK magazine Monocle, describes Kosovo’s first architectural offering at the event as “thought provoking.
“On the one hand you have the giants of the architectural industry who everyone is a little bit bored of,” he said, referring to some of the displays from bigger names on show at Venice.
“Then you go into the Kosovo pavilion next door and see something genuinely interesting and problem solving, which is what the Biennale should be about,” he added.
Archdaily, a leading architectural website, was equally admiring.
The Kosovo Pavilion “takes a step back to reflect on the current state of their urban landscape,” it wrote, adding that it is “asking important questions on how architecture will affect the future of Kosovan identity”.
Mars Podvorica, principal architect of MAP`D Studio in New York and lecturer at the City University of New York, told the Pristina-based architecture website ONUP that Rama had dug deep “into Kosovo’s tradition for inspiration, to create a pavilion that would thoroughly expose the architecture of the newly independent country.
“Rama’s Filigree Maker truly raises the profile of Kosovo in the international architecture stage,” he added.
“And just like his filigree wire whose path is paved by an emotional response, we hope that the created structure will serve as a guide, and will validate the critical fact of how influential we are as architects in shaping our common ground.”
At the opening of the pavilion last month, Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Memli Krasniqi, described the country’s participation at the Biennale as a great step forward, presenting an opportunity to promote Kosovo’s heritage and potential through architecture.
“It is extremely important that Kosovo finally is being presented at the Biennale, which is the greatest global event of this field,” he said, praising the work carried out by commissioner Ramku and curator Rama.
“Kosovo as a young country has a rich history and cultural heritage and, what is most important, it has a great potential that I hope we will have the opportunity to promote in the world by supporting creative minds,” he added.
“We’ve tried to show that architecture has an emotional impact on people, and as architects we are responsible for this fact,” Rama said.
“We are inviting all the visitors to vote and show their emotions with respect to buildings and the impact that architecture has on them,” he concluded.
This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.