Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

Rem Koolhaas’ Elements of Architecture in the Central Pavilion at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale opens with a ceiling. Well, two ceilings: the existing, recently restored 1909 dome painted by Galileo Chini and a utilitarian drop ceiling hung at 2.7 meters, complete with electrical and mechanical systems. “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” sang Paul Simon in 1973, some seven years before the first architecture biennale in Venice. A twangy number from a solo album, the song departs from Simon and Garfunkel’s summer of love utopianism and delivers an existential lyric that pivots on the “is,” eluding a single definition a basic architectural element. Koolhaas’ installation might seem like a parody of preservation, a subject he’s known for reconsidering. According to accompanying text, the ceiling is meant to oscillate between symbol and utility pointing out a lingering hang-up of modernization: one man’s iconography is another man’s abstraction. Read More …