The next day was dedicated to the gardens and we started at the small island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where Vatican commissioned some of the famous architectural names to present their vision of a chapel as a space for contemplation.

Not being a religious person and – to be honest – not bothered to check it out in advance, I haven’t expected much of it.

Therefore the impact they had on me, when I experienced the space – was even greater.

Each and every one of them represents the piece-of-art and it is truly impressive, how relatively simple forms manage to, through the sensible use of materials and volumes and light, they manage to create a serene, one could even say divine spaces, where one can almost physically feel connected with the universe as well as with one’s inner self.

Out of ten of them, I’d like to mention three at least.

Once again, Eduardo Souto de Moura had outdone himself. With a simple concrete blocks, carefully combined into the subtle composition, he managed to create a unique space. Inside and out, his chapel is by all means my favourite.

Edurado Souto de Moura Chapel

It must have been again the simplicity of the form and usage and mobility of Sean Godsell’s tower chapel, that instantly appealed. I can easily imagine it opening its flaps in order for a sermon to be conducted at some remote place, its simple auditorium filled with people while a bright light fells upon a priest through the golden inside of the tower.

Sean Godsell Chapel

 Smiljan Radic’s chapel did not appeal to me from the outside. But the space inside, to which one, enters through a delicately fastened doors, with its unnerving column and a light coming from a glass roof covered with the autumn leaves, yet again offered a unique experience.

Smiljan Radic Chapel

Next, the time has finally come to visit the famous Giardini.

Filled with the national pavilions of the great nations of the time when it all started, it is always supposed to represent the highlight of the Biennale. And yet again, it is simply overwhelming for a one day visit, so I’ll once again give up on the ambition to conduct a full report but rather just focus on a few impressions.

Danish pavilion attracted me with a vision of a fast travel and one can only imagine how even smaller the world will become, once the technology of a hyperloop finally comes to be.

More that its bubbles, Nordic pavilion one again impressed me with its own architecture  that is, with its simplicity and cleanness of the form and space, in such a contrast to some colonial style pavilions – not to mention the Hungarian that I always – probably sometimes unjustly but still – avoid due to its exterior. 

Nordic Pavilion

The story behind this year British pavilion, I found too complicated to remember, but I kind of liked the emptiness of the space although I admit that, at that time I was there, it might easily be my response to the sensory overload.

The traces of the previous exhibition on bare walls of the British Pavilion.

 Swiss pavilion was kind of humorous – especially I liked the big kitchen that made one easily imagine how a child feels in a space designed for adults. The experience strengthened my resolve for floor to ceiling windows.

Swiss Pavilion
Photography courtesy of Deezen; Photographer: Wilson Wooton.

As usually, at an Australian pavilion I felt like at home. Relaxed.

Australian Pavilion

But the one pavilion, that I really find insightful and had a strong impact on me was a Belgian one.

Due to the over-title – “Eurotopie” – I first thought it is a European pavilion, only to discover that the bureaucratic center of Europe only superimposed itself as a representation of it. And one could say, that it has done it justly. By presenting a Europe as a circular blue and open space, seemingly freely, but in reality accessible only by taking one’s shoes off, forcing one to symbolically comply, it presented itself with an incredible measure of insights and deep metaphor.

The empty auditorium – ‘unreachable’ debate space of Eurotopia.

Myself being a strong believer in united Europe, I found the metaphor very tell-telling and kind of explanatory of Brexiters’ motives. It is interesting that, during my attempt to enter, every one of the visitors that happened to share my desire, flatly refused to comply with this unnecessary request, turn around and left. And I can only hope that this gesture, if not a stronger one, will be repeated by many, every time and in every aspect of our life when a bureaucracy tries to subdue us.

Matej Gašperič