As thousands of visitors traipse the vast and various Venice Biennale installations in its first month, the floor of the Biennale’s Central Pavilion is sure to make them look down instead of up. Designed by London collective Assemble with Granby Workshop – the Liverpool tile manufacturer the collective helped launch following its Turner Prize win in 2015 – the floor of the Chini Room boasts an installation of 8,000 handmade ceramic floor tiles. These tiles represent the latest experimental production method developed by the Liverpool manufacturer, reinventing the traditional encaustic clay tile-making process.
The tiles are made by randomly combining pieces of different coloured clays in a mould under extreme pressure, each capturing, Assemble says “a moment of chance in the act of making”, making them all unique. The Factory Floor installation design is a nod to the highly decorative floors of Victorian churches and municipal structures from the heyday of encaustic tile production.
The design also responds to the overall Biennale theme of “Freespace” and alludes to an ethos of “material generosity and craft in architecture,” the collective explains. Products are developed and made at Granby Workshop according to a set of guideline principles, which dictate that products use experimental methods, embrace improvisation in their making and be enjoyable and challenging to make. Granby Workshop supports employment and creativity in the Granby Four Streets area of Liverpool and grew out of the wider community-led rebuilding of the neighbourhood.
The Factory Floor is accompanied by benches produced by Workshop East, and a banner displaying the workshop rules made in collaboration with Fraser Muggeridge Studio.
At the end of the Biennale later this year, the majority of the tiles will be transported across Venice and installed permanently in the garden of the V-A-C Foundation at the Palazzo delle Zattere. This installation, Laguna Viva, is also designed by Assemble with Granby Workshop and We Are Here Venice.