perspectives : art & architecture : john pawson & swarovski at the basilica di san giorgio maggiore : venice biennale

openhouse-magazine-perspectives-art-architecture-john-pawson-swarovski-at-the-basilica-di-san-giorgio-maggiore-venice-biennale-Gilbert-McCarragher 1perspectives by john pawson : venice biennale 2013

text by Maria Cristina Didero : photography by Gilbert McCarragher all vial domus

On the occasion of the 55th International Art Exhibition — Venice Biennale, Swarovski presents the newly-established Swarovski Foundation with a project by British minimalist architect John Pawson. Titled Perspectives, the project is installed in the heart of the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore. The new Swarovski foundation has established a series of missions: the improvement of human rights; social engagement; support of women initiatives as the access to sanitary system and education to favour the progress of young people and community; the preservation of natural resources on earth; the constant support to creativity and culture at large; and the promotion of innovative projects as well as a deep liaison with research in design, for example in its support of the Design Museum London.

openhouse-magazine-perspectives-art-architecture-john-pawson-swarovski-at-the-basilica-di-san-giorgio-maggiore-venice-biennale-Gilbert-McCarragher 2 openhouse-magazine-perspectives-art-architecture-john-pawson-swarovski-at-the-basilica-di-san-giorgio-maggiore-venice-biennale-Gilbert-McCarragher 3Related to the latter, the collaboration with San Giorgio’s monastic community — founded in 982, when the island was donated to the Benedictine Giovanni Morosini by Doge Tribuno Memmo to build a monastery dedicated to San Giorgio — aims to restore the statue of San Giorgio on top of the dome of the Palladian church, construction of which was completed in 1610, thirty years after the celebrated architect’s death. The work by John Pawson, originally designed to be presented in occasion of the 2011 London Design Festival and inaugurated in the city’s striking Saint Paul’s Cathedral, comprises a 40 cm-wide concave Swarovski crystal meniscus lens, made from optical quality glass, that sits on a much larger reflective surface — the upper plane of a specially fabricated metal hemisphere with a 1200 mm diametre and a 675 mm height. “The architecture of Sir Christopher Wren’s cathedral is rich and complex and the temptation when you visit is to try to take in everything,” states Pawson on the project’s original presentation. “The thinking behind the piece was to isolate just a small element of the building and offer a spatial experience based around this single and sharply honed perspective. I am thrilled that, thanks to the support of the Swarovski Foundation, we are able to show the piece in this year’s Venice Biennale”.

The charming contrast between John Pawson’s slight design and the rich decoration of the basilica on this small Venetian island will give visitors the opportunity to experience different, unique and fresh perspectives of the ancient monument. The creation of this dramatic optical view brings new light to the interior of the famous Benedictine basilica. “My design is essentially a tool for viewing,” Pawson points out. “It uses the largest ever concave meniscus crystal lens ever to have been commissioned from Swarovski’s optical division. This lens sits on the flat surface of a metal hemisphere so highly polished that, when you look down into it, it is like staring into a pool of mercury. I made the piece as simple and visually refined as possible, because these are qualities I value, but the focus of the project has never been the physicality of the piece itself, so much as how this object enables people to see in a different way”.

openhouse-magazine-perspectives-art-architecture-john-pawson-swarovski-at-the-basilica-di-san-giorgio-maggiore-venice-biennale-Gilbert-McCarragher 4

With the Perspectives project, the first Swarovski official collateral event at la Biennale di Venezia, Swarovski Foundation’s missions to promote creativity and innovation through working in direct contact with architects, artists and designers such as Ron Arad, Zaha Hadid, Gaetano Pesce, Tom Dixon, Ross Lovegrove, Tord Boontje, Piero Lissoni, Fernando & Humberto Campana, Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Lacroix, Mary Katrantzou, Marios Schwab and Giles Deacon, demonstrates its deep and solid commitment to the artistic community and beyond.

Moreover, a financial donation to the Benedictine monks — the first donation made by the new Swarovski Foundation wanted by Nadja Swarovski, Member of Swarovski’s Executive Board and Chair of the Swarovski Foundation’s board of Directors — will enable the restoration of the statue of San Giorgio, helping to ensure that the 16th Century basilica is preserved as one of the key examples of extraordinary architecture in the world. Maria Cristina Didero


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