“Social media has the ability to break down the hierarchy between the artistic institution and the public, but we need to remain aware that the ideas behind these exhibitions can be reduced and diluted to visual icons."Antonia Lapwood
Architectural graduate Antonia Lapwood has been awarded the 2016 Warren and Mahoney International Scholarship to attend the Venice Architecture Biennale which starts in May this year and runs for six months. The University of Auckland alumna will spend two weeks as a volunteer at the New Zealand pavilion, co-ordinated by the New Zealand Institute of Architects and entitled ‘Future Islands’.
The Biennale, which promotes debate around design and urban planning, was established in 1980. It is regarded as “the Olympics of architecture” with more than 65 countries taking part. For Lapwood, an Architectural Graduate at Warren and Mahoney, this is an exciting opportunity to glean a more global perspective on her chosen profession. “I’m looking forward to investigating how the digital age has changed the traditional experience of the Biennale,” she says.
Although the 23-year-old will record her discoveries and thoughts using on-line platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, she has her feet planted firmly in reality. “Social media has the ability to break down the hierarchy between the artistic institution and the public, but we need to remain aware that the ideas behind these exhibitions can be reduced and diluted to visual icons.
In an era when we are bombarded with thousands of images daily, we should retain focus on the ideas behind the images and keep questioning why we post what we do.”
Lapwood cites one high point of her fledgling career as a studio paper she undertook with San Diego-based social urbanist Teddy Cruz. The outcome was an exhibition at The Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tàmaki which looked at ways local businesses and residents could reconnect with the Whau River that runs through suburbs in west Auckland. “Both industrial and residential zones have turned their back to the river, choosing to ignore it as opposed to seeing it as an asset to utilise,” Lapwood explains.
Cruz advocated an innovative ‘top down/bottom up’ approach of activating change, where community involvement and government legislation met in the middle.
Further architectural exhibitions Lapwood has participated in include a team installation at the 2011 Rugby World Cup Fan Trail which enhanced the sensory experience of supporters on their way to Eden Park and, as a member of the Design Collective Four/Two/One, an installation for Urbis Design Day 2015 entitled “Head in The Clouds”
Attending the Biennale will allow Lapwood to further research the relationship between architecture, art and installation. “Installations are places of experimentation, provocation and commentary, liberated from the limitations of conventional architectural function. When architectural ideas are presented in an installation or exhibition, it encourages people to understand them openly within a contemplative platform,” she says.
In announcing Lapwood as the recipient of the scholarship, the panel was impressed by her research into the history and role of the Biennale. “We are confident Antonia will act as a superb ambassador at this world-class event,” says John Coop, convenor of judges and principal at Warren and Mahoney.