Gas Pipe

The project team of Estonian representation at this year's Venice architecture biennale is glad to announce the exposition "Gas Pipe" - an installation comprising of an elevated section of real scale gas pipe along the Viale Trento in Giardini, between the pavilions of Russia and Germany whose curators have courteously granted the realization of the installation. The biennale has given us an extraordinary opportunity to present a large-scale site specific installation in the public space of Giardini park, executing an act of critical art and architecture.

The project is inspired by a controversial enterprise of Nord Stream, an initiative to build a direct gas pipe from Russia to Germany. The initial project of Nord Stream to build the pipeline into the Baltic Sea has been widely contested from ecological as well as geopolitical positions. Voices have risen to persuade building a mainland gas pipe instead but the real outcome of the project is still unclear. In either case, the pipe has a special position and effect in the Baltic Sea region as well as being part of an omnipresent, ever-expanding network of gas pipes and other infrastructure objects - the border-transgressing power lines of the contemporary world.

In accordance with the general outline of this year's biennale, the installation does not posit solutions but rather questions reality, posing and framing problems concerning mechanisms determining the contemporary physical environment. As the main curator of this year's biennale, Aaron Betsky has written in his introductory text, the production of architecture has become defined by various codes and agents from fields outside architecture. In the context where the sense of permanence and coherence has been eroded, our being at home in this world problematized and the possibility of designing a better, more beautiful world by mere architectural means challenged, we need architecture as a tool for questioning.

Starting from this position, the "Gas Pipe" installation works as a reality check in the context of the biennale. The installation highlights the spatial dimension of politics and the political dimension of architecture. It will raise the question of architect's position and role in relation to power, the possibility for critical architecture as such. It is a revisiting the tradition of conceptual architecture without nostalgia; a balancing act between serious sense of responsibility and self-conscious ironical play.

The installation will also address the reality of contemporary landscape more and more defined by large-scale infrastructure and intermingling of the technological and the natural. Infrastructural networks are flows building up a world of motion in itself, generating their internal systems of rules and regulations. At the same time, from a spatial point of view they are forming hybrids with which used to be called the nature. New spatial configurations are formed but operating only in the present tense - the question of different future scenarios of energy will render all these landscapes quite different.

Set along the public pathway in Giardini, at one of the busiest spots of the architecture exhibition, the "Gas Pipe" installation confronts the viewer unexpectedly as a tangible, inescapable and massive real thing. It is abstract yet concrete, creating a strong bodily experience and at the same time intriguing the mind.

Commissioner: Laila Põdra, adviser on architecture, Estonian Ministry of Culture
Curator: Ingrid Ruudi, editor-in-chief of the Estonian architectural review Ehituskunst
Authors: Maarja Kask, architect, Salto AB
Ralf Lõoke, architect, Salto AB
Neeme Külm, freelance sculptor