​‘Station Russia’ to explore vast expanse of Russian landscape at Venice Biennale

The Russian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale will turn into a train station to showcase the railway system as the lifeblood of Russia.

Daniil Zinchenko, Video still, 7 Days in 7 Minutes, image courtesy the artist and the Russian Pavilion
Daniil Zinchenko, Video still, 7 Days in 7 Minutes, image courtesy the artist and the Russian Pavilion
Daniil Zinchenko, Video still, 7 Days in 7 Minutes, image courtesy the artist and the Russian Pavilion

The Station Russia exhibition, devoted to the past and future of Russian railways, will be presented in five halls. Each of them will examine the expanse of the Russian landscape and the significant role the transportation system plays in the world’s biggest country. This will be showcased through multimedia installations, models, and artifacts.

The exhibition refers to the main topic of the biennale, ‘Freespace,’ which “focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers.”

Curated by architecture historian and commissioner of the national pavilion, Semyon Mikhailovsky, Station Russia is backed by JSC Russian Railways – a monopoly company which owns the world’s third-longest rail network and nearly all of the locomotives in the country.

In the first hall, ‘The Geography of Free Space,’ Arden Vald aims to show the railway system as vital veins of the country. Through an infographic installation, the artist demonstrates the complexity of the crucial transportation system that spreads all over the country and through 11 time zones.

Plans and models of train stations from different years are displayed in the ‘Architectural Depot’ hall. The biggest installation is the model of the first Russian railway station built in the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, the function of the station was not just transportational; it was also a gathering place for the elite.

Pavlovsk Vauxhall, Station Russia, Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, courtesy the Russian Pavilion, Venice
The Crypt of Memories, Station Russia, Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, courtesy the Russian Pavilion, Venice
Pavlovsk Vauxhall, Station Russia, Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, courtesy the Russian Pavilion, Venice

‘The Waiting Hall of the Future’ contains two projects that rethink the development of railway station surroundings. The first one is a re-examination of the ‘New Unit Settlement’ which was shown 50 years ago at the Triennale di Milano. The second is ‘A Dichotomy of Free Space,’ an exhibition of projects for redeveloping one of the busiest train station squares in Moscow.

The fourth hall, ‘The Crypt of Memories,’ is shaped as a luggage room. Visitors are welcome to explore steel cabinets, where they can find artifacts that refer to the history of the railroads.

In ‘Aboard the Free Space,’ the last hall, film director Daniil Zinchenko documents his journey from Moscow to Vladivostok in the ‘Seven Days in Seven Minutes’ video and highlights the vital role of railway transportation in Russia. The piece is a journey of more than 9,000 kilometers on the Trans-Siberian Express, as shown through a frosty window.

The pavilion will be inaugurated on May 23 and will open its doors to the public on May 26.

Text: Anastasia Dolgova