Giant among visitor centres: Ireland's entry for Venice showpiece


THE NEW Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is to feature at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale in an exhibition of work by Dublin-based architects Heneghan Peng representing Ireland.

A model of the £18.5 million (€23.4 million) centre which appears to be hewn from basalt and folded into the landscape will be part of an Irish pavilion in the Arsenale di Venezia entitled Shifiting Ground.

This refers not just to Heneghan Peng’s play with geometry and landscape in Co Antrim, but more specifically to their success in going “beyond national architecture” to win major projects abroad.

The Irish pavilion at the 13th biennale will, they say, “chart a position for Irish architecture in a global culture where the modes of production of architecture are radically altered”.

Its centrepiece will be a “responsive oscillating bench that invites visitors to balance their respective weights”. This was inspired by an ancient Egyptian rod used to measure water levels of the river Nile.

Heneghan Peng Architects – headed by Roisín Heneghan and Shih-fu Peng – were selected to represent Ireland because they are working across three continents on a range of competition-winning projects. Several of these are in sensitive locations, including three Unesco world heritage sites: the Grand Egyptian Museum at the Pyramids; the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre; and a Rhine bridge near Lorelei.

Other big projects include a pair of bridges at the 2012 London Olympic Park, a library and school of architecture for the University of Greenwich in London, and the Palestinian Museum near Ramallah.

Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan said Heneghan Peng “epitomises the impact Irish architects can make” and the biennale would bring further recognition to Irish architects.

The commissioner for Ireland’s pavilion in Venice is Elizabeth Francis, an Irish-born architect working in Italy, with John McLaughlin, former director of architecture for Dublin Docklands, acting as curator.

O’Donnell + Tuomey and Grafton Architects will be participating in the main exhibition, Common Ground curated by David Chipperfield, while Clancy Moore Architects will feature in the Backstage fringe.

Ireland at Venice is an initiative of Culture Ireland in partnership with the Arts Council, supported by the Department of Arts and Heritage, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and Arup.