American Framing, the US Pavilion at the 17th Architecture Biennale

Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner,

Venice, Italy,

Biennale di Venezia,



The United States Pavilion in the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia presents American Framing, a study of the ubiquity and aesthetic power of timber constructions in American architecture. Installations, models and photographs explore the architecture that has given shape to the United States of America.

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American Framing, the US Pavilion at the 17th Architecture Biennale
American Framing, the United States Pavilion organised by the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) with the support of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, commissioned by Paul Preissner, Associate Professor UIC, and co-curated by Preissner and Paul Andersen, Clinical Associate Professor at UIC, offers a dramatic welcome in the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia. The walk-in installation stands outside the pavilion proper: a cross section of half of a full-sized timber-frame house on four levels, inviting visitors to experience the forms and techniques of American timber construction for themselves. 
Inside the installation and in the pavilion courtyard we find furnishings designed by UIC students recalling great icons of the past, such as Shaker furnishings and Gerrit Rietveld’s Crate furniture, remade out of ordinary timber.
Inside the pavilion is an exhibition of two series of photographs commissioned recently, both exploring the culture of timber-frame homes and interacting with nine scale models designed and built by UIC students in seminars conducted by Preissner and Andersen. The models are historical examples, including the Sears Hillsboro House of the ‘30s, a mobile home from the ’50s and housing for those left homeless by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In this way American Framing is related to the Finnish pavilion, New Standards, which, however, focuses on prefabrication.
The series of photographs by photographer and UIC student Daniel Shea documents the fir and pine forests where the trees that provide the raw material grow, from Alaska to Texas. 
Chris Strong’s images illustrate the whole process involved in timber construction, from harvesting and preparation of the timber to the construction process. We see the faces of the people who build these homes emblematic of American ideology, offering a cross section of US society. 
Timber frame construction was first developed in the early 19th century, when the United States were rapidly expanding westward, as a pragmatic response to the impelling need for infrastructure. The widespread availability of timber and the simplicity and speed of its construction made the timber frame a symbol of the inexpensive American home. Its great adaptability still offers plenty of potential for design today. This is why American Framing draws to our attention an architectural element that is often neglected in historic and contemporary architectural debate but still has an important contribution to make to responding to the question “How will we live together”. 
And in fact 90% of American homes are still built in this way, as the pavilion demonstrates!

Christiane Bürklein

US Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia
American Framing
22 May - 23 November 2021
Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy
Commissioner: Paul Andersen, Paul Preissner, and The University of Illinois at Chicago
Collaborators: The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and The National Endowment for the Arts
Curators: Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner
Sponsors: Glen-Gery Corporation/Brickworks and Alphawood Foundation
Media Sponsors: Architectural Record
Additional Sponsorship: Joseph G. Burns, Brooklyn PrintWorks, and Thornton Tomasetti Foundation
Exhibitors: Ania Jaworska, Norman Kelley, Daniel Shea, and Chris Strong
Photography: Daniel Shea and Chris Strong
Furniture Designers: UIC Students and UIC School of Architecture faculty: Clinical Assistant Professor Ania Jaworska, Assistant Professor Thomas Kelley, co-founder of Norman Kelley, and his design partner Carrie Norman.
Models: UIC Students
Images: Courtesy the Pavilion of the United States at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia. 
Find out more: http://americanframing.org/