Officially established by the Venice Biennale Foundation, it made its appearance five years before its official institution: in fact, in 1975 the first exhibition on architectural matter was created, entitled "About the Stucky Mill" at the Magazzini del Sale. Responsible was the well-known Piedmontese architect and designer Vittorio Gregoretti, who was commissioned to set up subsequent exhibitions focusing on the Visual Arts, specifically from 1976 and 1978, by the then president Carlo Ripa di Meana.
But it is in the 80s that architecture becomes a matter of independent analysis and definition within the Venetian Biennale: during the first year of the last twenty years of the twentieth century the new section was entrusted to Paolo Portoghesi, who thus curated the first exhibition International Architecture entitled "The presence of the past".
At the base of the first exhibition there was the analysis of Postmodernism and its consequent vision of history as a sort of infinite reservoir of images useful for being freely and independently reinterpreted by contemporary architects. At the Arsenale the protagonist was the exhibition "Strada Novissima" consisting of 20 facades created by the great names of world architecture and designed as a sort of emblem of postmodern structures. Frank O. Gehry, Robert Venturi, Franco Purini and many other stars of the contemporary panorama are among the protagonists of this project. In addition, the 1980 exhibition was also remembered for the homages to Mario Ridolfi, Ignazio Gardella and Philip Johnson.
The second Architecture exhibition (November - January 1982) was remembered for the interest developed in the architecture of Islamic countries within the Italian Pavilion: according to Portoghesi, in fact, it had strongly influenced big names in western architecture such as Antoni Gaudi, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. In addition, within this Biennale, great importance was given to technological innovation, as demonstrated by the work of the Egyptian Hassan Fathy, and to the great personalities who over the years have compared themselves with oriental material in constructive terms.
The following International Architecture Exhibition was marked by the direction of Aldo Rossi, after Portoghesi had become the President of the Biennale. Venice was the absolute protagonist of the artistic kermesse, especially the ability of contemporary architects, famous and otherwise, to recreate or redevelop specific areas of the Venetian territory and its lagoon: entitled "Progetto Venezia", the Architecture Biennale of 1985 had around 1,500 participants from all over the world. The most tackled theme was the famous Academy bridge, one of the symbols of the wonderful Venetian city, subject to particular reworkings capable of ranging from adherence to the historical and stylistic context to the latest known technological innovation.
Between July and September 1986 the fourth Architecture Biennial was created, totally dedicated to the architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage, to his desire to create a real total work of art in all its aspects (as demonstrated by some of his constructions, such as the famous Amsterdam Stock Exchange) to the leitmotif of his career: "Looking at the building and the history of the building". To pay homage to the famous Dutchman, an exhibition was created at Villa Farsetti in Santa Maria di Sala, totally focused on the designs of the celebrated architect. However, this exhibition did not stop at the Venetian spaces, but the following months he toured Europe through Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam.
The 5th International Architecture Exhibition was carried out in 1991, under the direction of Francesco Dal Co. These introduced a great innovation in the construction of the exhibition: he modeled the edition on the format of the art exhibition by inviting National pavilions to actively participate in the event in question. As for the Italian sphere, the participants included Gae Aulenti, Massimiliano Fuksas, Renzo Piano, Ettore Sottsass and other very famous names from the architectural panorama of the Belpaese.
The next edition was created in 1996, and had the Austrian architect Hans Hollein as artistic director. The title of the exhibition was "Sensors of the future. Architect as seismograph ", and he wanted to analyze the architect's ability to get in touch with the needs of contemporary reality, managing to bring it towards projects related to the future world. In fact, according to Hollein, the modern architect no longer belonged to schools or movements, but was a figure independent of any type of identification and classification. Among the architects belonging to the project Frank O. Gehry, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster and Toyo Ito. As for the Italian pavilion, the "Radicals" retrospective was created, focusing on the maximum architectural experiences between the 50s and 70s of the century.
Of great importance was the establishment of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in architecture, which was specifically given to Ignazio Gardella, Philip Johnson and Osca Niemeyer.
"Less Aesthetics, More Ethics" was the title of the VII Architecture Biennale, directed by Massimiliano Fuksas. He no longer wanted to carry on the traditional concept of exhibition, moving it to a 360 degree level of investigation on contemporary society, with an eye to the immense contemporary metropolis. Three thematic groups dealt with during this exhibition, in particular the environmental, social and technological sector issues. Particularly interesting were the twelve video projections of Bogota, Buenos Aires, Bucharest, Budapest, Mexico City, New Delhi, Paris, Sao Paulo, Quito, Cairo, Athens and Montreal present in the Corderie spaces: these appear as a real whirlwind of chaos and social degradation.
The next Architecture Biennale was titled "Next". Under the direction of Deyan Sudjic, it focused on the ability, through technological innovations but also thanks to models, sketches and so on, to design an architecture focused on the future. For the director, in particular, the Chinese geographical area would have been the most suitable for this new architecture. During the exhibition, new ideas were discussed on the major construction types of architecture, that is, housing, museums, exchange, training, city of towers, work, shops, entertainment, church and state, urban plans and finally Italy. It is the typology dedicated to the Cities of the towers that arouses most interest: some great architects were asked to present the model of a 100-meter skyscraper in 1: 100 scale. In reference to this, the American Pavilion presented the most emblematic photographs of the attack on the Twin Towers, and some proposals for the reconstruction of the territory in question.
In 2004 there was the ninth International Architecture Exhibition. The director was Kurt Foster, who proposed a vision of contemporary architecture capable of uniting completely different elements. The title "Metamorph" was given, and the exhibition in the spaces of the Arsenale was divided into seven specific sections: transformations, typography, the nature of the artifice, surfaces, atmosphere, the harrowing of the city and hyper-projects. The section dedicated to transformations is very important, a real tribute to the great architects of the 80s.
The tenth edition of the Architecture Biennale was entirely dedicated to the theme of global cities, large metropolises with a population greater than four million inhabitants and despite this, continuously increasing. "City. Architecture and society "was the title chosen and various issues were addressed, from emigration to sustainability. Great importance was given to the role of architecture in the construction of construction situations appropriate to the specific social request. An exhibition was presented at the Arsenale with lots of videos, photographs, graphics and installations of sixteen large cities from every corner of the world. Southern Italy was the protagonist of projects presented in the two collateral sections of the Biennale. One set up at the Artillery of the Arsenale and another, "City - port" presented instead in Palermo.
Aaron Betsky, director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, was given the position of directing the 11th Architecture Biennale in 2008. For Betsky architecture was not simply building, but a much broader and freer concept. "Out there: architecture beyond building" was the chosen title, and the "Installations" exhibition was presented at the Corderie, with many large and site specific installations. Among the participants Massimiliano Fuksas, the UN Studio, Vincente Guallart, Zaha Hadid and many other celebrities of contemporary architecture. The Italian Pavilion was instead the site of an exhibition focused on experimental architecture.
Kazuyo Sejima was called for the realization of the twelfth International Architecture Exhibition, called "People Meet in Architecture". The title was explanatory: it was important to give the opportunity to "open architecture to new points of view on how people relate". Forty-four architects, studios and engineers from all over the world participated in the exhibition. The Biennale, which took place in 2010, had a great success with the public, reaching a total of 170,801 visitors.
The last exhibition, before the one that will take place from 7 June to 23 November 2014, had the famous David Chipperfield as director and was entitled "Common Ground". The exhibition, which took place in 2012, was characterized by the presence of 110 participants and saw the presence of photographers, artists, critics and scholars capable of carrying out projects appropriate to the proposed theme: demonstrating "the importance of influence and the community of commitment cultural "with ideas common to all suitable to" form the basis of an architectural culture ".