emilio ambasz, precursor of green architecture, celebrated at the italian pavilion in venice

Jun 27, 2021

the italian pavilion at the 2021 venice biennale pays tribute to emilio ambasz, acknowledged precursor of green architecture, through a multimedia exhibition of his works, curated by alessandro melis. the display focuses on promoting the world-renowned architect’s ideas, conceived through years of interdisciplinary research on the topic of climate change, while featuring the models of his two iconic projects: the casa de retiro espiritual in seville, spain, and the ACROS center in fukuoka, japan. in addition, the pavilion brings exposure to the MoMA announcement of the establishment of the ’emilio ambasz research institute’ facilitating the study around the relationship between the artificial and natural environment.

the pavilion celebrates emilio ambasz as the pioneer of green design and architecture via films, signs, panels, and models of his two emblematic creations: casa de retiro espiritual and the ACROS center. casa de retiro espiritual in seville takes shape as a traditional andalusian weekend home that is insulated by the earth, keeping naturally cool in the hot, arid climate. formed as two monumental rough stuccoed walls with a tall staircase in the middle, the structure serves as a dream-like reference to the primordial concept of home.

the ACROS center is a government building situated within a public park in fukuoka, japan, and it is one of the most popular and recognizable green buildings across the globe. the story behind this project further highlights the talent of ambasz, who won this commission by successfully achieving reconciliation between the two opposing goals: maintaining the original size of the park while forming an emblematic structure in the heart of the city. the design generates a series of garden terraces stepping up the facade of the building, thereby virtually returning all of the land that the building would subtract, back to the city.

the pavilion gives visibility to MoMa’s announcement of the newly established emilio ambasz research institute, which is dedicated to investigating the relationship between architecture and ecology. located within the museum’s midtown manhattan campus, the institute will focus on studying creative approaches to design at all scales –buildings, cities, landscapes, as well as objects– in order to work towards environmental justice, while further contributing to the global conversation on the pressing need for ecological recalibration.

according to the pavilion’s curator ’emilio ambasz’s presence in the pavilion is essential for at least three reasons: his pioneering research, his focus on radical architecture, and the international significance of his visions’. furthermore, in alessandro melis’ words, the works of ambasz ‘are no less sophisticated than current ones: they are works that are already complete and conclusive, and already include contemporary elements. this is not a pioneering value, it is an absolute value.’

those visiting the venice biennale have the chance to see another impressive construction by emilio ambasz, the ‘banca degli occhi’. located in mestre, the medical center is formed as a distinct triangular volume with generous planted terraces. two long trapezoidal walls define its exterior, sheathed with a bronze patina finish, and placed at right angle to each other, but with their projected tips not touching by a few inches. according to the project’s description, this arrangement evokes ‘michelangelo’s painting in the sistine chapel of god’s finger transferring his élan vitai to adam’. the building’s roof is a stepped section plane covered in fragrant greenery, which can be enjoyed by the patients upon entering.

casa de retiro espiritual in seville, spain

project info:

architect: emilio ambasz event: 17th international architecture exhibition  pavilion curator: alessandro melis