The Polish Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016 directly responds to this year’s theme – Reporting from the Front – by addressing the ethical issues facing one of the most underrepresented participants in architecture: the construction worker. Labour conditions, lack of respect and site accidents plague the industry worldwide but these difficulties often get overlooked in favour of deadlines, budgets and the public demand for new spaces. Curator Dominika Janicka, in cooperation with Martyna Janicka and Michał Gdak, create a full-scale construction site inside the Polish Pavilion and ask the question – why don’t buildings come with fair trade marks?

The curators behind the exhibition Fair Building believe that construction sites represent the frontline in architecture; it is the physical manifestation of any live project and despite technological advancements is still led largely by manual labour. The contribution from these workers is missing from architectural discourse and construction processes remain unpredictable. In a consumer-driven culture we can be more concerned with the standards involved in making chocolate bars than the buildings and spaces that frame contemporary society. This exhibition will focus on the ethical issues surrounding the construction industry and the views of those directly involved.

The pavilion within the Giardini is divided up into two parts. The main section is made up of a module scaffolding installation that forms a direct physical connection to the building site. Documentary videos are screened simultaneously, featuring stories about construction workers, each focusing on a key angle to the industry's work conditions and construction works characteristics. The other part of the exhibition, resembling an investor’s showroom apartment, explores the industry in numbers with the use of info-graphics and an animated promotional video.

Exhibition curator Dominika Janicka says: “By presenting the stories of persons directly involved in the building process, we ask whether ‘fair trade’ is achievable in the field. If so, what would it be? Is ‘fair building’ possible? We don’t focus on looking for culprits responsible for the abuses occurring at the various stages of the construction process. Rather, we create a space to reflect on how to make this process not only effective but also fair.”

Fair Building, 2016, 5-channel video installation, Sand, 3’11”; Concrete, 6’03”; Plasters, 3’33”; Height, 3’24”; Love, 2’16”

Stories on work experience at construction sites used in the videos were shared by Andrzej Dąbrowski, Mateusz Heppner, Jacek Szyszka, Piotr Nowak, Arkadiusz Hiller, Damian Musiał.

The footage was shot in March 2016 with GoPro cameras provided to the construction workers.

Additional footage: Przemysław Jękosz
Sound on set: Aleksandra Pniak
Editing: Kacper Plawgo
Scoring: Paulina Bocheńska
Colour grading: Przemysław Jękosz
Postproduction and editing assistant: Magdalena Urbańska
Coordination: Dominika Janicka, Martyna Janicka, Michał Gdak in collaboration with Joanna Waśko

Sale, 2016, computer animation, 1’11”, made by DIG Group