The Pool makes a splash at Venice Biennale

A sophisticated homage to the humble Australian pool is the inaugural exhibition in the new Australian Pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale.

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UNSW alumnus Amelia Holliday (left) with co-creators of The Pool Isabelle Toland​ and urban designer Michelle Tabet. Photo: Alexander Mayes Photography

A sophisticated homage to the humble Australian pool is the inaugural exhibition in the new Australian Pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale.

UNSW Built Environment alumnus, University Medalist and architect Amelia Holliday designed The Pool, a collaborative project with Isabelle Toland​ and urban designer Michelle Tabet, which is the first to be presented in the striking Denton Corker Marshall-designed Australian Pavilion at the Biennale.

Toland and Holliday, who started the Sydney architecture firm Aileen Sage, describe the installation as “a lens through which to explore Australian cultural identity”.

“Be they natural or manmade, inland or coastal, temporary or permanent, visitors to the new Australian pavilion in Venice will be invited to explore the pools of Australia in all their forms,” the creators say.

Featuring a central pool, the installation uses glass, mirrors, light and perspective to expand its physical and perceptual presence, also drawing on sound and smell – the scent of smoky bushes and the air just after rain – to create a rich sensory experience.

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The Pool in the Australian Pavilion, 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu

UNSW Built Environment Dean Professor Helen Lochhead, who was on the selection panel and recently attended the Biennale, said The Pool is a “pitch perfect” contribution to the event.

“The Pool celebrates the egalitarian nature and social inclusion of the swimming pool in our culture. The Australian pool is the universal leveller, where we all participate. Most of us learn to swim. Many of us in our local pool overcome fear, face challenges, compete and excel.

“The exhibition is not only uplifting but speaks to everybody, which of course is what all good architecture should do. The team are to be congratulated. It is a Biennale highlight,”  Professor Lochhead says.

Architect and UNSW professor of practice Ken Maher, who was also a member of the selection panel, lauded the project for drawing sharp connections between "landscape, culture and architecture".

International visitors can further explore Australian culture by listening to a series of pre-recorded interviews with prominent Australians including Olympians Ian Thorpe and Shane Gould, writers Anna Funder and Christos Tsiolkas, fashion designers Romance Was Born, musician Paul Kelly, environmentalist Tim Flannery and Indigenous art curator Hetti Perkins.

The 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale runs until 27 November.

Professor Lochhead in conversation with alumnus Amelia Holliday from Aileen Sage Architects