From 20 May, the French Pavilion of the Venice Biennale of Architecture, designed by the Muoto agency, will be at the time of all «utopias» by proposing a «laboratory of identities, places and imaginaries».

Jos Auzende, Yves Moreau, Clémence La Sagna, Anna Tardivel, Georgi Stanishev et Gilles Delalex.

It is a proposal “ experimental » and « festive ” that will make you sparkle, from May 20 to November 26, the French Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Under the title “Ball theater – The party is not over”, the Muoto agency, associated with Georgi Stanishev and Clémence La Sagna for the scenography, Jos Auzende, associate curator, and Anna Tardivel for the programming, designed a bold hemispheric theatre, real pavilion in the pavilion, intended to accommodate all the utopias ».

““Ball Theater - The party is not overinvites us to live a sensitive experience, that of an architecture-theatre, scenographic and sound composition, open to the world and receptive to its concerns, whether ecological or societal » explains Erol Ok, General Manager of the French Institute, the operator of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture.

Awaken utopia

Ball Theater wants ' awaken utopia in us, as summarized by Gilles Delalex, co-founder of the agency. Theatre is a laboratory of identities, places, imaginaries. We have imagined a whole device to project ourselves in another place, not to be in retrospect but prospective. » Its shape and material are undoubtedly reminiscent of the faceted ball, a rather kitsch icon of the party. « This theatre is meant to question us, we would like to raise questions. The faceted ball makes us say that the party is still possible Gilles Delalex continues.

This hemispheric theatre will be both a place of representation, creation and experimentation that will welcome researchers, students, artists and thinkers throughout the event. Moreover, the production is not imagined as a face-to-face between spectators and actors but as a place to try experiences by placing visitors at the centre of a stage, inviting them to intervention and risk-taking.

Lightweight steel structure


The team chose a lightweight structure to travel with ease thanks to 21 meridians and 13 parallel steel and three hundred bolted segments and an outer surface covered with thin aluminum foil. The half-sphere is placed on the ground on a circular stage and the apparent electrical networks give the impression that the theatre is still under construction. « It looks like a ship that landed, a construction site started but not completed, describes architect and set designer Georgi Stanishev. The exterior is dressed with a reflective surface. You go around it and you reach a hollow face with a microphone in the center of the stage. »

In an adjoining room, the Ball theater has in fact been equipped with rudimentary tools for listening, capturing, emitting sounds - microphones, speakers, projectors... – but also a series of found objects. Examples include a tower turnstile, a spinning top, a reel, a mirror or a step ladder. “ These objects were built from children’s games at the scrapyard that can revive and be the support of joyful exhibitions », continues architect and set designer Clémence La Sagna.

Particular care has been given to the sound universe of this theatre with a programming, a fictional and mythological universe » completes Clémence La Sagna. The visitor is indeed immersed in an environment made of noises, songs, whispers, whispers that bounce from one room to another. The sound space will evolve over time thanks to an artificial intelligence device and an original system of speakers. Enough to return to a slow listening approach in a world saturated with signs and images. The installation was designed by the theatre’s sound team, composer Pilooski and engineers Alain Français and Thomas Fourny.

From ball to ball


For six months, the life of the Ball Theater will alternate between times of contemplation - with visitors - and occupation with balls. These one-off events will cross disciplines and bring together art, architecture and research. The party will take a very concrete turn.

They are based on the Ball Culture born in New York in the 1920s when the balls were places of emancipation and identity advocacy, dance and celebration for African American and Latino LGBT communities in response to racism and homophobia. In the 1960s and 1970s, ballrooms became places of gay and lesbian sociability. “ It is during the holidays that the world is invented. We wanted to reconnect with this long history of clandestine ball with its demands ” says Associate Commissioner Jos Auzende.

These balls will take the form of studio residences. “ They will be open to the public one week a month with architects, researchers and artists exploring utopia and desirable futures. The public will attend the creative process », says Anna Tardivel, in charge of programming. Among these events, a ball in homage to the dressing balls and the voguing with two queer creatures who will revisit the utopian history of interlopes, transvesting and transformism since the beginning of the XXe century. Radio utopia will gather on its airwaves a team of sound researchers in a studio open to the public. For a week, programs are continuously programmed with architects, acousticians, student researchers who will capture the voice of the world.

Students from architecture schools are associated with this programming. Those of the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Saint-Étienne will question in the form of radio After the revolution relations between architecture and revolutionary phenomena while ENSA Bretagne proposes to interfere in the Ball Theater to make it the laboratory of a joyful ritual shift ».

“Ball theater – The party is not over” is a project designed in partnership with the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-Malaquais. It was carried out by the Muoto agency, co-founded by Gilles Delalex, teacher at ENSA Paris-Malaquais and co-director of the LIAT laboratory of the school (Laboratory infrastructure, architecture, territory); 8 students of ENSA Paris-Malaquais participated in the project; the LIAT laboratory will take part in the events that will animate the pavilion; the project catalogue is co-funded by ENSA Paris-Malaquais.


A post-Biennale odyy

The Ball Theater project is part of a low-carbon strategy by limiting the first two emission factors related to its manufacture: movement and the production of materials. For this, the winning team has designed a device that can easily travel and be reused with lightweight, modular and removable bleachers built with a minimum of material. Sound and objects can also be mobilized separately. The entire installation is produced by craftsmen from the Venetian region in order to reduce material movement. Finally the theatre respects the logic of reuse since all the objects and the satellite room have been searched and restored on site. After the Biennale, the roaming will continue with one objective: the definitive acquisition of the theatre by one of the institutions that will host it.

The team has finally imagined an architectural fiction that takes the form of a photo novel. Lorem ipsum is thus born from the meeting between the author Ugo Bienvenu and the architects of the French Pavilion of the 18e Venice Architecture Biennial. Its title refers to the temporary filling text used in the world of graphic design and printing.