Pavilion of Slovenia at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia

Pavilion of Slovenia at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia

Herman Potočnik Noordung, The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket Motor, 1928, Figure 84 - The Habitat Wheel. Left: Axial cross section. Right: View of the side constantly facing the sun, without a concave mirror, partially in cross section, Copyright © KSEVT - Treasury of Modernity

At the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice between 7 June and 23 November, the Pavilion of Slovenia will show the project the Problem of Space Travel - Supre: architecture curated by the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies (KSEVT). For the first time Slovenian presentation will be held at the central exhibition venue in the Arsenal.

Herman Potočnik Noordung, The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket Motor, 1928, Figure 88 - Well of the habitable wheel staircase, Copyright © KSEVT - Treasury of Modernity

The exhibition delves on the fundamentals of architecture by looking at the work of Slovene engineer Herman Potočnik Noordung, the pioneer of space architecture. With his 1928 book The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor, Potočnik established a first vision of architecture that would enable human survival in dangerous, even deadly conditions of zero gravity. 

In the Arsenale, in at the passage between Corderie and Artiglierie, the Pavilion of Slovenia presents Potočnik’s idea of architecture for space at many levels. For the last few decades, our nearby space has been inhabited with objects of various origins - from satellites to space stations. These human “settlements” perform all kinds of functions in an environment unfriendly to humans, yet they join hands as cultural and architectural artifacts.

Herman Potočnik Noordung, The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket Motor, 1928, Figure 60 - A room of the space station in the state of weightlessness and which is being furnished; Figure 61 - Writing in the state of weightlessness: for this purpose, we have to be strapped to the tabletop, for example, by means of leather straps in order to remain at the table at all. A man floats in from the next room through the door opening, bringing something with him, Copyright © KSEVT - Treasury of Modernity

In the Pavilion, KSEVT makes a between Science-Technology solutions and the Arts-Humanities appropriation of space, seeing the development of architecture as an intersection of two parallel human efforts. The Arts-Humanities vector, outlined by Potočnik and his non-militaristic approach to designing space architecture, is to recognize a cultural space in weightlessness and in unnatural conditions to humans.

Potočnik’s commitment and his architectural contribution can be better understood when framed alongside the history of architectural Modernism, in Slovenia and abroad. We may understand the methodology of Potočnik’s plans for space architecture – to create an environment for human habitation in a completely inhuman environment, space – through a series of architectural solutions made by prominent Slovenian architects in the past hundred years, despite the fact they were often subjected to a residential and social function, defending the idea of a better life – with all the benefits of a civilization – even for the weakest social groups.

It is not by accident that even some modernists and avant-gardists started to discover space, albeit with their own devices, in the early decades of the 20th century. The search for a new artistic expression often coincided with the invention of a new social order and a new man. Space made a radically new view of art and society entirely possible, so the story of the technological and architectural conquest of space is intertwined with utopian artistic exploration and therefore with the artistic interpretation of what space is and what it implies.

Through three concepts, the Pavilion offers different ways to understand Potočnik’s space architecture and architectural space in general. Supre:human deals with Noordung’s Technology-Humanities designs for a human living space. Supre:living above all exposes the fact that space is impregnated with cultural artifacts — including architecture — as well as artistic appropriation and even an expansion of this very term. Finally, Supre:composite represents Slovenian architecture in the last century as the predecessor and descendant of Potočnik’s architectural aspirations; a predecessor that demonstrates the context and mentality of the idea for architecture in a certain area; a descendant who points out the basis of a general reflection – how does the architecture enable human habitation? –, and, because it is born in conditions of new technological solutions, largely connected to the development of space technologies.

Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies; Matija Bevk, Aljoša Dekleva, Tina Gregorič, Rok Oman, Vasa J. Perović, Jurij Sadar, Špela Videčnik, Boštjan Vuga, 2012, Photographer: Tomaž Maček, Copyright © KSEVT

Through these three aspects, KSEVT advances a unique look at the past scientific and artistic exploration of space, a look to begin and understand this exploration as a diverse mental effort of space culturalization.

KSEVT holds this exhibition in cooperation with the La Biennale di Venezia and prepared the main presentation in cooperation with the Yuri A. Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre from Star City. They establish a connection of Herman Potočnik Noordung with the International Space Station, the only inhabited space architecture in Earth’s orbit.