Display & Debate: An Oral History of the 1976 ‘Europa/America’ Show at the Venice Biennale
Europa/America exhibition catalogue
On 1 August 1976, at the Lido di Venezia, a lively debate occurred between architects from Europe and America on the grounds of the heredity of the Modern Movement. With the enigmatic title Quale Movimento Moderno (Which Modern Movement), the discussion accompanied the exhibition Europa / America: architettura urbana, alternative suburbane, a display of works by 25 selected European and American architects.
Organised by the Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti on the occasion of the XXXVIIIth Biennale di Venezia, this show coincided with a key moment in architectural history. It implied a double confrontation - the first one directly ensuing from the dialectical form of the exhibition which opposed the Americans against the Europeans - while the second one, perhaps more subtle and fortuitous, was a generational shock between the so-called Team X group (including people like Van Eyck, De Carlo and The Smithsons) and the younger generation (including Tafuri, but also people like Rossi, Eisenman, or Stern). Taking place around a year before Charles Jencks's first publication of The Language of Post-Modern Architecture and four years before the 1980 Venice Biennale exhibition on postmodernism, Europa/America marked a definite change of direction in architecture.
The aim of the proposed research project is to analyse and contextualise this 1976 event, while also looking at it through a contemporary perspective and allowing the remaining actors of the events to leave their testimony. Looking at architectural exhibition as a complex apparatus (in the Foucaldian sense) the proposed study uses oral history to unpack the forces that were at stake in the display Europa/America and its accompanying debate. The main objective of this research is to determine what were the subjects of contention debated around the exhibition Europa/America and to discover how the 1976 exhibition and its related debate are perceived today, with historical perspective. The overall aims are to better understand the historical period and context, to make accessible to an English audience some unexplored archival material, and to let some extraordinary voices speak. The findings of this research will be disseminated through a long article accompanied by a website containing images and extracts of interviews.
Léa-Catherine Szacka, August 2011
Léa-Catherine Szacka studied architecture in Montreal and Venice, before entering the History and Theory PhD program at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Her thesis on the history of the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale, looks at the paradox of exhibiting architecture more specifically in the postmodern context. Léa-Catherine has taught architecture studio at Nottingham Trent University. She has also collaborated with the Barbican Art Gallery and the Centre Pompidou as well as with Actar publisher.
Szacka, L.-C., The Presence of the Past - First International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in catalogue of the exhibition Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970 to 1990, Victoria & Albert Museum, (forthcoming September 2011).
Szacka, L.-C., Showing Architecture Through Exhibitions: A Taxonomical Analysis applied to the case of the first Venice Architecture Biennale (1980) in Design Writing: Words and Objects edited by Grace-Lees Maffei, Berg Publisher, (forthcoming autumn 2011).
Szacka, L.-C., Historicism versus Communication: The Big Debate at the 1980 Biennale, in Architectural Design special issue on Radical Post-Modernism (with guest editors Charles Jencks and FAT, forthcoming September 2011).
Szacka, L.-C., A Conversation with Vittorio Gregotti, LOG20, Special issue on Curating Architecture, edited by Cynthia Davidson, fall 2010.
Léa-Catherine can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org