Every other fall Venice crawls with starchitects, emerging designers, Ivory Tower types, and even a few architecturally inclined fine artists. They're all there to discuss new architectural projects and the heady ideas that surround them and to showcase the best talents from their homelands. From Romania to Rwanda, from Singapore to Slovenia, countries unveil official pavilions, and, not to fear, the United States is well represented with a joint effort organized, in part, by Atlanta's High Museum of Art and a little something called the State Department.
It's like a World's Fair of the built environment—with a few carafes of Soave and a view of the Adriatic.
In its 12th year, the La Biennale di Venezia International Architecture Exhibition, as the event is called, stretches from August 29 to November 21, but if your CAD-generated invitation got lost in the mail, here are the 10 names to know and where to find their feats closer to home.
The Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese minimalists create buildings meant for art or commerce with penchants for sculptural shapes and fluid, transparent walls.
Founding date: 1995
Kazuyo Sejima—the 2010 director of the Biennale's architecture sector and the festival's first female in that role—and Ryue Nishizawa
The Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City (pictured above)
Derek Lam boutique, New York City
These Dutch masters put entire neighborhoods, even sleepy cities, on the map with their work, known to be (1) centrally located, (2) multi-functional, (3) problem-solving, and (4) heroic.
Offices: Rotterdam, New York, and Beijing
Founding date: 1975
Principals: Rem Koolhaas, who's receiving the Biennale's 2010 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, plus Ellen van Loon, Reinier de Graaf, and Shohei Shigematsu
Prada boutiques, New York City and Los Angeles
Seattle Public Library's Central branch, Seattle
Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, Dallas (pictured above)
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Ever since the 1977 debut of its Paris landmark—Centre Georges Pompidou—Piano's firm has been behind notable cultural projects across the United States, each one characterized by a sunlight-filled weightlessness.
Offices: Paris and Genoa
Founding date: 1981
Principal: Renzo Piano
The Menil Collection, Houston
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas
High Museum of Art expansion, Atlanta
Morgan Library expansion, New York City
Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (pictured above)
Studio Olafur Eliasson
Some combination of artist, scientist, and prankster, the Dane crisscrosses between epic highbrow shows and made-you-look pop-culture projects (a lamp for the Christmas displays at Louis Vuitton and a BMW frozen in ice) with light and water as his go-to media.
Founding date: 1995
Principal: Olafur Eliasson
The touring exhibition Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson, which traveled to major museums in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, and New York City
The New York City Waterfalls, New York City
The Parliament of Reality, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (pictured above)
Your Invisible House, Santa Fe
Although the firm gets its metaphorical hands dirty with landscape projects big and small—from museum grounds in Golden Gate Park to the boulevards of downtown Macon, Georgia—this company is run by Walter Hood, a full-fledged academic who's area of research and teaching is American urban-landscape history and design. Smart thinking and inspiring execution won his firm a 2009 National Design Award. They're part of Team America in Venice this year, too.
Founding date: 1992
Principal: Walter Hood
Cornerstone Gardens "Eucalyptus Soliloquy", Sonoma, California (pictured above)
De Young Museum grounds, San Francisco
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson Community Garden, New York City