The Czech Pavilion Addresses the Issue of Precarious Working Conditions at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale
The National Pavilion of the Czech Republic presents the exhibition “The Office for a Non-Precarious Future” at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The exhibition investigates current pressing issues faced by the architectural profession and especially by young practitioners by asking the initial question: ”How can architects design a better world if they themselves work in a toxic working system?.” The pavilion is commissioned by Helena Huber-Doudová and will present the works of exhibitors Eliška Havla Pomyjová, David Neuhäusl, and Jan Netušil. As the Czech ad Slovak Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale is under reconstruction, the Czech Republic will exceptionally use the Arsenale in the Artiglierie section as its exhibition space. The Czech and Slovak Pavilion in Giardini will serve only as a digital hub to complement the main presentation.
The theme of the exhibition is based on the research report “Woking Conditions of Young Architects” that concluded in 2020 that almost 50% of young professionals work as freelancers for a single contractor without employment benefits such as health insurance or social security. The high percentage comes with other problematic indicators: 62% of young architects work overtime, including regular or occasional work on weekends, and 32% do not have a regular or fixed income.
The actual exhibition is divided into two parts. “The Factory” is a representation of the status quo of the profession, a segmented production space where workstations and white monitors suggest an altar composition, with tasks and hierarchies clearly defined. An animated infographic of data and diagrams aims to illustrate the complex working conditions of young architects in the Czech Republic. The second section is “The Laboratory,” an experimental space where architects can give the discipline a speculative and collective reinterpretation. Through these interactive installations, the exhibition authors, architect, facilitator, and researcher Eliška Havla Pomyjová, architect David Neuhäusl and motion designer and professor Jan Netušil, aim to go beyond the simple presentation of the current condition and seek to find new solutions.
Architects are educated in the spirit of the profession’s calling, the impetus to transform the world through a single act of creative genius. But how can we change the world if we can’t provide decent working conditions for ourselves? The Office for a Non-Precarious Future is an exhibition project that metaphorically takes on the form of a Factory and a Laboratory. The Factory, as a dystopian environment, reflects the negative status quo of the profession. The Laboratory provides critical analysis, tools, and best-practice examples. As a work-in-progress space for exhibition visitors and 10 residents, it offers cooperation, conversation, and speculation on the non-precarious future of the architecture profession.
Other national pavilions have also announced their exhibition themes, with several of them focusing on pressing social issues affecting their respective countries. The Canadian Pavilion aims to draw attention to the challenges generated by the housing crisis through an exhibition titled “Not for Sale!”. On a similar note, the Türkiye Pavilion questions the accepted perceptions of unused buildings in order to discover more hopeful proposals for the future, while the Bulgarian Pavilion has chosen to focus the exhibition on the subject of depopulation, urban decline, and rural flight, expressed through the image of abandoned schools present in the country.