Scottish firm Baxendale has contributed a vibrant crowdpleaser to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. Responding to this year’s theme of “freespace,” Baxendale designed a structure that is equal parts outdoor playground and meeting place. With an interconnected network of colourful roofs, palazzo gardens, latticed walls and raised walkways, the structure encourages community connection.
Appealing to adults and kids alike, the structure has hosted a musical, film screenings, community meetings and families. Baxendale designed the project as part of a Scottish programme of events at Venice, dubbed Happenstance.Originally, the biennale was to dismantle Baxendale’s outdoor playground much sooner. The budget covering its rent of the Palazzo Zenobio, where it currently resides, only lasted until the end of June. However, its beloved status amongst local Venetian crowds ensured its survival. The Armenian Mekhitarist Fathers of Venice, who were hosting the structure, bought it from Baxendale. Now, a small team will maintain the structure until the winding down of the biennale on 25 November.
“The way that local people and groups have taken up the invitation provided by the project has been truly humbling and inspiring,” states Baxendale co-founder Lee Ivett.“The project is one of never ending potentially and having passed it’s first ‘deadline’ it is interesting to see what happens within the space from now until November and beyond.”
The design of the structure aimed to experiment with the role of design and how its facilitated personal agency within public space. It plays with ideas of what makes successful space, creating a structure that is highly adaptable. The structure suggest, rather than dictates, behaviour. Established since 2005, Baxendale’s outdoor playground is a clear extension of the studio’s ethos. Their expertise includes “the coordination, guidance and support of volunteer and non-professional people in the construction of community spaces.”It is uncertain what the future of will be after next month, so visit while you can. However, Baxendale designed the frame so that parts could be reused, adapted or replicated. They hope that their structure continues to draw on local capacity and agency, animating public space through collaborations between artists, architects and community.