The facade is the window to the soul of architecture: Venice Architecture Biennale, 2018

By Adam Caruso and Helen Thomas

In response to the Biennale’s theme of Freespace, Caruso St John Architects put together an exhibition that celebrates the historical richness and social generosity of the façade. Whether a building is public or private, whatever its intended use, its façades have the responsibility to make a positive contribution to the public realm and should have the capacity to emotionally affect people who may only have a fleeting relationship to the building. Good buildings, like Georgian townhouses and Victorian warehouses, can accommodate new uses over time, and while programme can be fleeting, it is the physical presence and the image of these buildings that underpin the formation of great cities. The facade has been missing from the architectural discourse for too long.

The exhibition presents elevation drawings of a number of the practice’s own projects, some built and some in development, where the facade and its relationship to the city is a central theme. These facade portraits are complemented by a series of photographs by the architect Philip Heckhausen, which show the completed buildings in their urban surroundings, alongside images of other urban situations that have influenced the practice’s approach. Together, they make a collection of urban situations, in between which the Caruso St John buildings emerge at a second glance. In the centre of the room is a large bench, whose patterned seat is a reference to the elaborated surface of urban piazze.