Scotland + Venice: The Happenstance dispatches

A series of 12 publications or ‘dispatches’ exploring the themes and learning from The Happenstance.

A child wearing a white t-shirt stands in a narrow streets surrounded by brick buildings looking up at a large inflatable red mouth and two black deck chairs with the words Happen and Stance

The Happenstance was Scotland’s critically acclaimed contribution to the ‘freespace’ theme at the International Architecture Exhibition in 2018, delivered through Scotland + Venice.

The project was an active archive around a boardwalk-cum-climbing in the garden of Palazzo Zenobio. Read more about The Happenstance on the Scotland + Venice website.

Architecture and Design Scotland, part of Scotland + Venice, created a series of 12 ‘dispatches’ exploring the project’s themes and learning.

Through the dispatches, the story unfolds and explores the project’s inspirations, people, places, connections, and legacy. Click on the links below to skip to one that interests you.

The Happenstance curator Peter McCaughey is up a ladder cleaning the project’s vast screening wall.
Curator and Lead Artist from WAVEparticle Peter McCaughey cleaning the vast screening wall in the garden at Palazzo Zenobio. Image credit: Alberto Lago

Issue 1: An introduction

The first dispatch, written by Morag Bain, begins with the back story of Scotland + Venice. It then introduces the work of The Happenstance artists’ and architects’ past work. It also summarises the project’s three phases: in Scotland, in Venice, and back in Scotland.

Resource: The Happenstance dispatches - Issue 1

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A group of children in brightly coloured clothes play in front of a structure built from wood and featuring coloured panels in a green garden in the sunshine
The armature in the garden at Palazzo Zenobio. Image credit: Graham Ross

Issue 2: Venice reflective

Lee Ivett of Baxendale Studio looks at why a successful public space is one that suggests possibility and opportunity rather than dictates and instructs behaviour.

The armature in the garden of Zenobio provided a framework, both literal and metaphorical, that allowed curiosity, reaction, engagement and participation.

In this unique context, it was a support mechanism for people to take risks, try things out, fail, succeed, fail again, grow, develop and improve.

Resource: The Happenstance dispatches - Issue 2

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A large group of people sit in deckchairs in an enclosed garden space at night time watching a film
An evening film screening in the garden of Palazzo Zenobio. Image credit: Graham Ross

Issue 3: Into the mouth of the wolf

Anti-curator of The Happenstance Peter McCaughey tells the story of a day in the life of the project. He illustrates how, from the moment the Scottish team finds the garden, “the daily incidence of coincidence and good fortune is uncanny”.

The day is run through breathlessly, with a score of birdsong, singing, music, talking, playing and making resounding throughout the day. 

The ‘expect to get lucky’ mantra leads to the chance encounter. This increases the serendipity and manufactures the magic (with some tension to add a bit of spice!), all happening in that one day, amongst days, in the Garden of Epiphanies.

Resource: The Happenstance dispatches - Issue 3

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Three young people stand at the entrance to a lane holding leaflets, in front of signage and next to two black deckchairs with the words change and invite
Three of the fellows at the Calle de Vecchi entrance to The Happenstance. Image credit: Bash Art Creative / Bash Khan

Issue 4: My experience as a fellow at The Happenstance

As part of the research he carried out as a fellow at The Happenstance, architecture student Theo Shack looks at what immersive education meant as part of the project.

He also explores how the mantra ‘expect to get lucky’ opened up “seeing things and possibilities that might not otherwise happen if you were busy carrying out the plan already made”.

The five students who took part as fellows played an important part in The Happenstance. The programme offered self-led research, professional development opportunities and a time of exceptional experiences. You can read all their contributions on the Scotland +Venice: Fellowship Programme 2018 page.

Resource: The Happenstance dispatches - Issue 4

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A projection screen in a street is showing a close-up of someone’s face. The scene is dark but candlelit with signs of life.
A projection screen in a Venetian street. Image credit: Graham Ross

Issue 5: Venice context

Designer and local Venetian Alberto Lago played an important role in the project. Here he talks about how the memory of The Happenstance is still alive in the mind of the Venetian people.

It brought to the island a spirit of freedom and community engagement that Venice is losing due to the high touristic densification. The legacy of The Happenstance raised awareness that public space for all is needed in a city that is not free anymore.

Resource: The Happenstance dispatches - Issue 5

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A group of young children play underneath a multi coloured inflatable object.
An inflatable pillow in the garden of Palazzo Zenobio. Image credit: Brian Hartley

Issue 6: Play

Artist Brian Hartley looks at the importance of play as a spontaneous and creative process. He reflects on its agency in projects in Scotland, and in the ‘freespace’ created for the local Venetian community and visitors to Venice.

He explores how play opens up vital conversations and actions around identity and encourages the collective use of public and private space.

He looks at two projects that engaged specifically with themes of play: his own, and the collaborative practice of Ruby Pester and Nadia Rossi (Pester and Rossi).

Resource: The Happenstance dispatches - Issue 6

Read the full dispatch.