Plumbing the System

Nieuwe Instituut

Architecture | Exhibition | Sustainable Design

The Dutch Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale  

Nieuwe Instituut, the Netherlands’ national museum and institute for architecture, design and digital culture will continue its role as commissioner of the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale with an installation titled Plumbing the System, curated by Jan Jongert of Superuse, asking the question: Can a cultural event such as this Biennale become more than simply a venue for presentation and debate, given the urgencies we face in sustaining our societies and planet? Can it instead become a testing ground for the enactment of real change?

Responding to the Biennale’s theme of ‘Laboratory of the Future’, this year’s Dutch Pavilion will serve as a platform for exploring the potential of future-oriented, regenerative economies and circular design, but with a twist. The aim is to demonstrate how alternative systems can contribute to a more sustainable future on a macro scale, while Jongert’s attempt to implement a real change on a micro scale–that is, on the iconic Gerrit Rietveld-designed pavilion itself–will lend insight into both the opportunities and hurdles in doing so.

On the one hand, the pavilion will present The Waterworks of Money, a series of drawings by cartographer Carlijn Kingma that intricately translates our complex money system into a spatial environment using water as a metaphor. By mapping the flows of money through society, Kingma illustrates the workings of our financial system and its deeply embedded mechanisms that can both hinder and enable change. Kingma has collaborated with leading thinkers in economics to develop and illustrate tangible alternatives or ‘road maps’ that can lead to a more socially and ecologically regenerative economy.

Meanwhile, continuing with the metaphor of water, Jongert will attempt to implement an actual systemic change by addressing Venice’s severe water shortages and installing a low-tech rainwater retention system to supply the needs of the Pavilion and its surrounding gardens. Visitors will be able to witness the process and the technical, bureaucratic and other challenges of undertaking this seemingly simple task–thus providing a tangible road map for realising change (or revealing what stymies it) while prompting the question of whether cultural events can move beyond discussing, debating and proposing changes towards becoming testing grounds for enacting them.

Dutch Pavilion ‘Plumbing the System’
Venice Architecture Biennale
20 May – 26 November 2023

Photography: Giulia Virgara

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