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Venice Biennale 2023

Last weekend, Lauren travelled to Venice for the bi-annual Architecture Exhibition (e.g. the best type of professional development!).


This year’s title for the Venice Biennale was the ‘Laboratory of the Future’, with emerging themes challenging the profession to question the current state of the industry and beyond. One of the main attractions of the Biennale is the variety of viewpoints and sentiments presented, which the audience can take away for further reflection.

 

Highlights:


Belgian Pavilion: In Vivo

“How can we rethink architecture in a world of finite resources?”


The Belgian pavilion aims to bring awareness to the impacts of our material choices, both in terms of their environmental and increasingly political consequences. They explore this theme through experimentation with living materials, such as uncultivated soil and mycelium.

 

Dutch Pavilion: Plumbing the System

“A testing ground for future-oriented, regenerative and circular design.”


The Dutch Pavilion is based around water, with a clear nod to Venice and its challenges, as well as a way to demonstrate how global issues can begin to be solved at a local level.


They have installed a water retention system within the pavilion, which is to be maintained and kept for future exhibitions. The water is used for the pavilions needs, as well as its surrounding environment. Consequently, the Dutch Pavilion does more than simply generate awareness, as it also promotes an immediate and sustainable solution.

 

Polish Pavilion: Datament

“Data must be treated not as a source of definitive answers, but rather as a tool for asking better questions.”


The Polish Pavilion encourages data to be experienced physically. Their installation displays a series of playful colourful frames that each represents a 1:1 scale house from various countries.


At first the installation appears chaotic, yet the interlocking frames and contrasting colours unfold as clear forms, which can be distinctly understood and compared. Each frame demonstrates the spatial forms that are characteristic of Hong Kong, Mexico, Poland and Milawi.


Displaying data in this way aims to allow for playful analysis, to ensure that facts can be both humanised and explored. In the example portrayed by the installation, one of the aims is to demonstrate how data can “shape the rooms without taking functionality and user comfort into account”.


The Polish Pavilion responds to a world which is increasingly reliant on data, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Aided Design; demonstrating the importance of human analysis and curiosity.




It was also great to see The Kwaeε by our friends at Format Engineers, together with David Adjaye and Xylotek. The timber prism plays with both light and transparency, creating a private structure which also provides glimpses of the surrounding Arsenale. The Kwaeε is named for the Twi word for ‘forest’ and is “envisioned as a space for both reflection and active programming”.



Lesley Lokko, this year’s curator of the Biennale, put Africa at the front and centre of the exhibitions, with clear topics around decolonisation and the unlearning of existing conditions; whether that be environmental or political.


The above three pavilions were particular highlights, demonstrating threads which were apparent throughout the Biennale. The installations promoted education, curiosity and the possibility of alternative futures, encouraging a collective reflection and reschooling of the industry as a whole. These threads link to the overarching theme of Decolonisation, which has its literal meaning, but also describes the process of rethinking and reframing; an action which is clearly important in the current climate.


Whilst putting forward thought-provoking topics, the Venice Biennale is also simply an enjoyable and fun experience, providing a huge amount of inspiration that can be taken forward into our own projects.

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