Sponsors and support
A considerable amount of support and significant contributions from sponsors made New Zealand’s official participation in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale possible.
The NZIA’s current president, Pip Cheshire, and his predecessor, David Sheppard, devoted much time to the project. The NZIA office, in particular chief executive Teena Hale Pennington, communications manager John Walsh and communications advisor Michael Barrett, and accountant Ronnie Kay, committed significant resource to the exhibition. Tony van Raat was closely involved as the exhibition commissioner.
Project manager Terry Urbahn, who has worked on several Venice Biennales, was contracted to supervise transport and logistics. This was an important part of the exhibition project: the European Union has strict rules around importing materials – everything that enters the EU has to leave the EU. Furthermore, the New Zealand exhibition was delivered to a tight timetable that necessitated transporting the pavilion’s components by air. The project manager also liaised with the Biennale authorities – it pays to know the ways of Italian bureaucracy – and with the Venice-based venue manager, Diego Carpentiero. Auckland graphic design company Inhouse was commissioned to produce branding and collateral material such as publications and signage. A London-based media relations company was engaged to promote the exhibition to the international media. Exhibitions at the Venice Architecture Biennale are generally open for eight hours a day, six days a week, and require supervision. The NZIA put out a call for volunteers to staff the exhibition; their tasks included securing the venue, checking the condition of the exhibition’s elements and engaging with visitors to the New Zealand pavilion.
Volunteers were also asked to contribute to the exhibition’s Facebook page. More than 80 respondents – including architecture and other students, but also a wide range of other people with an interest in architecture – expressed an interest in the unpaid position (accommodation was provided at the venue). Around 20 were selected; the volunteers included New Zealanders – some of them based in Europe – and Italians. (Naturally, many of the Pavilion visitors were Italian speakers.) Volunteers served in pairs, usually for a period of three weeks. A Venice-based New Zealander, Veronica Green, was contracted to supervise and support the volunteers.
The NZIA received valuable advice and assistance from the Australian Institute of Architects, which has staged half a dozen exhibitions at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and Creative New Zealand, which has staged several New Zealand exhibitions at the Venice Art Biennale. The Embassy of Italy in New Zealand, and in particular Ambassador Alessandro Levi Sandri, was very helpful – the ambassador hosted a fundraising reception for the exhibition at his private residence in Wellington.
Auckland Art Gallery hosted a similar event. The endorsement of the Minister of Culture and Heritage, Hon. Christopher Finlayson, and of New Zealand’s Embassy in Rome was essential. New Zealand’s then-ambassador in Rome, Dr Trevor Matheson, was consistently supportive of the New Zealand exhibition. New Zealand’s three Schools of Architecture – at Unitec, the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington – also made valuable contributions to the project.
Securing sponsorship for an inaugural project – one that is necessarily something of an unknown quantity – is never easy. The New Zealand Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale would not have been realised without the commitment of the NZIA council to assume responsibility for the project. Nor would it have been possible without the contributions of major sponsors, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Philips Selecon (which donated the exhibition lighting). Wine company Amisfield is an example of a New Zealand company which understood that a high profile international event with a sophisticated audience presented a worthwhile marketing opportunity (Amisfield wines lubricated New Zealand events at the Biennale). Resene made a significant contribution to the project as did the Warren Architects Education Charitable Trust (a reliable and generous promoter of architecture in New Zealand) and Fletcher Construction.
More than two dozen New Zealand architecture practices separately donated to the cost of the exhibition, and other companies and individuals made generous contributions. The support was not just financial; several of New Zealand’s leading architectural photographers, for example, submitted images that were used in the exhibition and its accompanying material, and artist Miriam van Wezel designed a brooch as a fundraising item. There was a lot of goodwill around the exhibition, before it opened, at its launch and during its six-month tenure in Venice.