rolex building

The past year has seen some distinct trends in the world of architecture — blurred boundaries between inside and out; the continued rise of eco-friendly features; and the use of handmade objects and technologies are among the most prominent. One of the finest architecture showcases, The International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, marks its 16th event this year, and as always, is bursting with exhibitions and installations from some of the world’s most respected architects and designers.

This year’s theme is “freespace”, and as such, the exhibition celebrates space while highlighting architecture’s generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity. The exhibition offers anyone with a keen interest in architecture endless opportunities for exploration — we’ve narrowed down a handful of works to look out for.

Kengo Kuma’s ArtLab at EPFL, which is dedicated to the intersection between science and the arts
Kengo Kuma’s ArtLab at EPFL, which is dedicated to the intersection between science and the arts

Kengo Kuma

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has collaborated with PiM.studio Architects to reveal a photography exhibition titled Time Space Existence at this year’s event. The exhibition showcases images of the V&A Dundee — Scotland’s first design museum, a unique building that was designed as an artificial cliff. The idea, says Kuma, was about “bringing together nature and architecture, and to create a new living room for the city.”  For Kuma, nature is an essential element in all of his work and the influence is clear in much of his latest work, including the environmentally sophisticated Rolex office building in Dallas, Texas; and the Artlab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, which is dedicated to the intersection between science and art, and characterised by its use of timber, steel and stone.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed Rolex’s new building in Dallas, Texas
Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed Rolex’s new building in Dallas, Texas

Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa

Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa have joined forces to create a transparent circular installation titled Guruguru at this year’s exhibition. With the use of acrylic panels layered and positioned close together, the space works by altering viewers’ surroundings as they move around it. The result is the sense of a distorted reality, and a unique perception of space that shifts with changing light, the time of day and the surrounding crowd. The piece is characteristic of much of Sejima and Nishizawa’s other work, which is characteristically transparent and uncluttered, inspired by an interest in the qualities of different kinds of space — their work on the Rolex Learning Centre in Switzerland is another excellent example of these innovative architects’ styles.

The Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne was designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA for EPFL
The Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne was designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA for EPFL

Rolex Pavilion

The new Rolex Pavilion in the Giardini area of La Biennale is a striking transparent structure with a faceted surface reminiscent of the elegant fluted bezel of the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date, which has been an iconic timepiece since it was first launched in 1945.  The concept was designed by Sahel Al Hiyari Architects, and represents a bold experiment in material use. A courtyard plan was used to spatially organise the pavilion, while elements like arches, an atrium, and a pitched roof were incorporated into the innovative design. Screened walls of glass discs enclose the space, giving the pavilion an abstract and visual texture.

The new Rolex Pavilion for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia
The new Rolex Pavilion for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia

The pavilion houses work by British architect Sir David Chipperfield and his Swiss protégé, Simon Kretz. The two have worked together to produce a book titled On Planning —A Thought Experiment, which explores how more holistic approaches to urban development can create cities that promote the well-being of their citizens through inclusiveness and innovative thinking.

Sir David Chipperfield, Rolex mentor in architecture 2016–2017, with his Swiss protégé Simon Kretz
Sir David Chipperfield, Rolex mentor in architecture 2016–2017, with his Swiss protégé Simon Kretz

Rolex is the exclusive partner and timepiece of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. “Rolex’s dedication to precision, high-performance and aesthetics links the company to world-class architecture,” says Arnaud Boetsch, Director of Communication & Image at Rolex SA. “In watchmaking, as in architecture, excellence in design creates the perfect expression of form and function.”

The Lititz Watch Technicum, Rolex’s watchmaking school in Pennsylvania in the United States
The Lititz Watch Technicum, Rolex’s watchmaking school in Pennsylvania in the United States