Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, Italy

A2 Architects were one of 16 architecture practices chosen by Grafton Architects as Curators to contribute to a group exhibition entitled ‘Close Encounter – Meetings with Remarkable Buildings’ in the Central Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2018. Our proposal, ODYSSEY – OIZA + OTEIZA, was the outcome of an iterative exploration of the shared work of architect Javier Sáenz De Oíza and sculptor Jorge Oteiza. The proposal was an abstracted representation of the Fundación Oteiza in Alzuzu, Navarra, Spain at the request of Grafton Architects.

This study began with a painting Oteiza frequently referenced, ‘The Battle of San Romano’ by Paulo Uccello c.1435-1460, where a shielded contender is placed within an epic landscape of travel and metaphysics. The painting contains many themes: covering, lines, journey, metaphysics, destiny, arms, contest, action and narrative.


A series of model studies of Oteiza’s work followed – a taxonomy of Oteiza’s quest to render visible emptiness – empty space. Oteiza sets out to make these sharp and silent, vigilant and empty. In their successive states, they can be seen to mutate with absolute autonomy, like an animate being. These works are living artefacts; protective and defensive instruments. In parallel with this, we have been concerned with how Oíza controls light to form an atmosphere; how he sets up relationships with Oteiza’s work and how he guides movement.


We proposed a fundamentally spatial and energetic artifact that has darkness and mystery at its core. We explored this circulatory or in-between space of the foundation building – indirect light, inclined ramped circulation; central darkness of the Main Hall; and finally inclined roof-lit galleries above. To make this manifest, we enclosed an ‘external dark space’ within an inside layered space to explore the gap between, thickness, depth and intimacy.