Thousands of visitors from around the globe got their first look at Landscape Architecture | Architecture Landscape — a solo exhibition of drawings by South African architect Peter Rich — when the 2018 Venice Biennale opened at the end of May.
Rich, who was invited to exhibit by curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, shows 15 drawings of 8 selected projects in the 13th century Arsenale hall. The drawings focus on the organic aspect of the architect’s work, which the curators felt best responded to the ‘Freespace’ theme of this year’s Venice Biennale.
Sketches of projects like the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre, and Rich’s latest project in China called Stone House, have been reproduced at a monumental scale on printed canvas and transparent textile sheets. These have been suspended from the Arsenale’s 6-metre-high ceilings from a mobile structure designed and built in Johannesburg from South African Kiaat hardwood and aluminum.
“It is a temple of light,” Rich says from Venice. “We are paying tribute to the context of this building, and Venice, and the generosity of drawing as an act of intuition. When you draw you can go to places you’ve never been.”
The curators celebrated Rich in their curators’ statement for the show at this year’s Arsenale. “Peter Rich seems to think and see with his hand. His fluent vibrant drawings show a keen observation of the world around him, picking up on the tiniest detail in the wall, on the ground, in the contour of the land, in the loose forms of the vernacular buildings, the enclosures, the habitation clusters of South Africa.”
Landscape Architecture | Architecture Landscape was curated by curator and author Garreth van Niekerk. The mobile structure was designed by Peter Rich Architects, with exhibition graphics and design by Vincent Truter of Orlando, and the structure’s construction and installation completed over a month-long period in Venice and Johannesburg by Fox and Firefly.
The exhibition, which runs until the end of November in the Arsenale, has been made possible with the generous support of the Biennale Foundation, Corobrik, PPC, and Lamy.
Peter Rich was born in 1945 in Johannesburg, South Africa. His pioneering research into African culture and space making has been applied throughout his career to find an appropriate contemporary African Architectural language.
The design of the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in Limpopo Province, South Africa, was chosen as the World Building of the Year at the 2009 World Architectural Festival in Barcelona, Spain, which has brought Peter Rich Architects international acclaim. Peter Rich’s quest is to communicate the Genius of Africa through cultural tourism initiatives to a broader audience. Recent work strives to apply the principles of African space making to build neighbourhoods and communities to accommodate first generation urban Africans.