18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale de Venezia
The 18th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice opened on May 20th and runs through November 26, 2023. Curated by Lesley Lokko, the sweeping exhibition is titled “The Laboratory of the Future”.
For the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale de Venezia, curator Lesley Lokko poses the question, ‘what does it mean to be an agent of change…?’. Titled, The Laboratory of the Future, the exhibition seeks to explore the interplay between architecture, the environment, and the urgent need for change in our rapidly evolving world. Lokko states: “An architecture exhibition is both a moment and a process. It borrows its structure and format from art exhibitions, but it differs from art in critical ways that often go unnoticed. Aside from the desire to tell a story, questions of production, resources and representation are central to the way an architecture exhibition comes into the world, yet are rarely acknowledged or discussed. From the outset, it was clear that the essential gesture of The Laboratory of the Future would be ‘change’.” The sweeping exhibition features six parts and includes 89 participants, over half of whom are from Africa or the African Diaspora and with gender balance that is 50/50.
The idea of change connects directly to the Biennale platform and its purpose, along with other large-scale exhibitions and art fairs that take place around the world. Is the message of these events greater than its environmental impact? The Biennale de Venezia is taking this question seriously, with a goal of “fighting climate change, by promoting a more sustainable model for the design, installation and operation of all its events.” Over the last several years, it has been collecting data across various areas, from mobility to physical construction and adopting new measures to combat CO2 emissions. In 2022 it obtained certification for all the events it held that year.
In The Laboratory of the Future, Africa takes centre stage, with an engaged look at some of the critical historical, economic, climate and political issues and how that connects to the rest of the world. Lokko notes: “much of what is happening to the rest of the world has already happened to us. Let’s work together to understand where we have gone wrong so far and how we must face the future.”
The six different parts of the sweeping exhibition begins with the Central Pavilion in the Giardini featuring 16 architecture practices who represent a ‘force majeure’ of African and Diasporic architectural production; Following is the Dangerous Liaisons section and the Curators Special Projects. Guests from the Future includes work that engages directly with two principal themes of the Biennale: Decolonization and Decarbonization. Other special projects look at food, agriculture and climate change, and gender and geography.
There will be 64 national pavilions across the Biennale including first time participants from Niger and Panama. Highlights of the national pavilions includes Denmark’s Coastal Imaginaries, curated by Josephine Michu, which puts forward nature-based solutions to rising global sea levels; The Estonian Centre for Architecture presents Home Stage for the Estonian Pavilion, hosted in a rental apartment near the Arsenale where various performers will come and stay, both in a fictional and ordinary/scripted and non-scripted situation.
The Golden Lion award for National Participation was given to Brazil for its project titled Terra, curated by Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares. The Golden Lion for the best participant went to DAAR, Alessandro Petti (Stockholm) and Sandi Hilal (Bethlehem), whose project was part of the Dangerous Liaisons section. The Silver Lion for a promising young participant went to Olalekan Jeyifous (Brooklyn), whose work is part of the Central Pavilion in the Giardini. Special mention for the National Participation was given to Britain, for the project, Dancing with the Moon
Sammy Baloji was awarded a special mention in the Venice Architecture Biennale for his three-chapter project in collaboration with Twenty Nine Studio, which addresses the dematerialisation of the landscape and the delocalisation of precolonial social systems through colonial action. Other special mentions include Wolff Architects from Cape Town and Thandi Loewenson from London.
For more details and comprehensive guide to the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale de Venezia visit the Biennale’s website. The Laboratory of the Future runs from May 20 through November 26, 2023.