Russian Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2018 presents a theme based on its iconic railways
As La Biennale di Venezia, one of the most hotly-anticipated architecture events in the world, gears up to open its doors to visitors next month, various countries are sharing more details of their participation in the biannual affair. Russian Pavilion present Station Russia, which explores the past, present and future of the Russian railways. In an environment which is in parts uninhabitable, to the extent that roads cannot be built, railways have proved to be the lifeblood of the largest country in the world. Station Russia explores how they, and the people who use them, negotiate the vast and often empty expanse of the Russian landscape.
In a new exhibition conceived and created for the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, the Russian pavilion has been transformed into a train station. Within its five ‘Halls’, contemporary Russian architects, designers and artists use sound and multimedia installations, as well as photographs, models and artefacts, to explore the past of the network and to present their vision of its future.
The exhibition is supported by JSC Russian Railways, whose involvement reflects its pivotal role in maintaining the strategic importance of the Russian railway network.
The focus of the exhibition forms a parallel with the history of the Russian Pavilion itself, which was inaugurated in 1914. The building’s designer, Alexey Shchusev, was also responsible for the Kazansky Railway Station – the Moscow terminus of the line which first connected the capital with Ryazan, in the south east of the country, and beyond, to Kazakhstan and central Asia.
In the central hall of the Pavilion, The Architectural Depot showcases plans and models of train stations past and present, such as the renovated station at Sochi by architect Nikita Yavein, and the proposed High Speed Rail connecting Moscow to Kazan, called Metrogiprotrans, by architect Nikolai Shumakov. A large-scale installation, suspended above the central stairwell, recreates the first Russian voksal – or Vauxhall – a train station and Pleasure Gardens in the suburb of Pavlovsk, built in the early 19th century, which functioned both as a terminus for the first Russian railway and as a summer retreat for St Petersburg’s elite.