• The scene at the opening of the Nordic Pavilion.

    Credit: Ian Volner

    The scene at the opening of the Nordic Pavilion.
  • Revelers at the party for the U.S. Pavilion at the  Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

    Credit: Ian Volner

    Revelers at the party for the U.S. Pavilion at the  Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Monday night, standing in a surging mass of partygoers in the Bauer Hotel on the Grand Canal, designer Rafael de Cardenas surveyed the crowd and grimaced. “This is nothing,” he said, “You should see the art biennial."

He seemed to know whereof he spoke—but it sure didn’t feel like nothing. The attendant hordes, all guests of design site Architizer and tongue-in-cheek architecture mag Pin-Up, were only a drop in the vast bucket of humanity that has descended on Venice, Italy, for the city’s 13th Annual Architecture Biennale. Curated this year by architect David Chipperfield, Hon. FAIA, under the general direction of longtime fixture Paola Baratta (newly reinstated after a brief political dustup), the 2012 edition is getting into full swing right now with openings and special events at every turn.

Opening day was especially thick with inaugural functions for the national pavilions in the Giardini area on the west of the biennial grounds. Denmark’s stately mid-century structure debuted “Possible Greenland,” an exhibition detailing the island nation’s key role in a fast-changing global economic and ecological climate; “Migrating Landscapes,” showing at the Canadian Pavilion, mined the concept of “dwelling” from a variety of cultural perspectives.

Attracting perhaps the most attention was the U.S. Pavilion, co-curated this year by ARCHITECT's own Ned Cramer. “Spontaneous Interventions” is an interactive panorama of projects that highlight American firms making creative and resourceful incisions in the urban fabric. It’s complemented by a make-shift conversation pit under the pavilion’s arching portico, a creation of Brooklyn, N.Y.–based Interboro Partners.

After the vernissage, the American contingent, along with several hundred friends, repaired to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection for drinks and prosciutto. Interboro’s Tobias Armborst had Georgeen Theodore had toddler in tow; the family had been in town for nearly a week, though they said that the installation had come together “pretty easily”—definitely easier than shepherding a pre-schooler though the teaming streets of Venice.