In a country full of chaos and instability, being able to find a little corner of serenity and hope is just what is needed. Each one’s refuge varies depending on the taste, lifestyle and penchant. When we refuse to give up and are looking for a whiff of resilience, we look for “A Roof for Silence“
In the context of the Lebanese Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Hala Wardé, the architect and founder of HW Architecture, who realized the Louvre Abu Dhabi with Jean Nouvel, presents A Roof for Silence at the Magazzino del Sale (Zattere), from May 22nd to November 21st, 2021.
Selected in the first public competition launched by the Lebanese authorities to represent Lebanon, Hala Wardé’s proposal was chosen on October 16, 2019 by a committee of experts appointed by the Ministry of Culture and the Federation of Lebanese Engineers and Architects.
Echoing the question « How will we live together? » as raised by Hashim Sarkis, curator of this 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Hala Wardé tackles the issue of coexistence through a questioning of the spaces of silence, and by putting into dialogue architecture, painting, music, poetry, video and photography.
“Why not think about places in relation to their potential as voids rather than as solids? How can we fight fear of emptiness in architecture?
How can we imagine forms that generate places of silence and contemplation?”Hala Wardé
The Lebanese Pavilion is conceived as a musical score, resonating disciplines, shapes and periods to provoke the sensory experience of a thought, articulated around the notions of emptiness and silence, as temporal and spatial conditions of architecture. A « Revelationary » installation as per Paul Virilio’s definition, in tribute to the renowned thinker and urbanist.
Treated as a manifesto for a new form of architecture, Hala Wardé’s project is based on the cryptic shapes of a group of sixteen olive trees that are a thousand years old in Lebanon. These legendary trees, whose hollowed forms are home to various species, are the tutelary figure of the Lebanese Pavilion. They are places of recollection or gathering, where peasants have convened for generations to decide on village affairs or to celebrate weddings.
The architectural arrangement of the Lebanese Pavilion is integrated into the space of the Magazzino del Sale following a rigorous geometry and rhythm. It unfolds in four stages:
- On an introductory wall, Paul Virilio’s « Antiforms », an exploration of space and absent matter, are set against photogrammetric records of thousand-year-old trees and black and white photographic prints of olive trees in Lebanon by Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkoury.
- On the ground, a trail of glass. Imprints or fractal traces of various forms: that of the impact of the Beirut blast in August 2020, a form of emptiness that joins that of the Antiforms or the large-scale graphic prints of the trees’ cavities.
- As the visitors move through the exhibition, they are led to a triptych projection of 16 olive trees of Lebanon that are a thousand years old. Filmed in the darkness of the night by Alain Fleischer, filmmaker, photographer and visual artist, these olive trees offer a sensory experience of emptiness and light, accompanied by a musical creation by the sound artists Soundwalk Collective.
- Walking through these images, visitors are led into the central room: an octagonal floor plan, but with a cylindrical interior space, where the 16 canvases of Etel Adnan’s poem-in-painting « Olivéa : Hommage à la déesse de l’olivier » are on display. The artist does not show a particular olive tree but rather the feeling inspired by this legendary tree that has accompanied the Mediterranean civilizations. Crowned with a semi-spherical roof bordered by light, this space embodies the possibility of an « essential » place: a « Roof for Silence ».
” There is this silence that is part of the aesthetics of things. For example, in painting. To paint only landscapes implies silence. And in poetry, silence takes the form of spaces. “Etel Adnan