The Venice Biennale is a highly prestigious cultural institution established in 1895, when the first International Art Exhibition was organized. In the 1930s, new festivals such as Music, Cinema, and Theatre started to be introduced. The Architecture sector was set up in 1980. Each nation in the Biennale is represented by its pavilion, expressing a country’s identity through art. Exhibitions are often related to the events in world history at the time. As a result, the Biennale has been playing an important role in history throughout the years by documenting political, ideological, and scientific changes through the artists’ viewpoints.

1. Impostor Cities – Canada Pavilion, 2021

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Impostor Cities_©dezeen.com

In the intervention designed by Montréal studio TBA, a green screen was wrapped around the Canadian pavilion building, simulating the conditions in which movie scenes are digitally created onscreen. The Biennale pavilion architecture aims to discuss architectural authenticity and how Canadian cities often pose as cinematic doubles. Impostor Cities is also a digitally interactive intervention, an Instagram filter was developed so that people could see buildings from Canada digitally inserted in the place of the Pavilion through the cameras of their cellphones.

2. Unbuilding Walls – Germany Pavilion, 2018

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Unbuilding Walls_©inexhibit.com

Curated by GRAFT and Marianne Birthler, the exhibition called Unbuilding Walls provides a reflection about how barriers affect cities. Once the visitors enter the building the fragments appear to be one solid black wall, but when they get closer the spaces between the objects start to show up. Information on the back of each fragment shows details about the Berlin Wall, which represents an important part of German history.

3. The Garden of Privatised Delights – England Pavilion, 2021

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The Garden of Privatised Delights_© worldarchitecture.org

The exhibition designed by Unscene Architecture is focused on how public spaces can be improved to become more accessible and enjoyable. It addresses recent concerns about the inequality of social life where access to public spaces is not guaranteed, an issue that the pandemic highlighted. The series of interactive rooms point out the possibility to redesign some spaces to turn them into places of diverse social exchange.

4. Fair Building – Poland Pavilion, 2016

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Fair Building_© floornature.com

The structure inside Poland’s Biennale pavilion was designed by Dominika Janicka, Martyna Janicka, and Michał Gdak. It seeks to bring awareness to the conditions of construction workers. To do so, elements that resemble heavy machinery and dangerous structures are displayed in the rooms along with screens showing workers in building sites. They aim to draw attention to the dangerous conditions builders have to face.

5. Losing Myself – Ireland Pavilion, 2016

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_Losing Myself_©metalocus.es

This immersive installation is the result of the collaboration between Niall McLaughlin and Yeoryia Manolopoulou. It reflects the reality of people that, due to brain diseases, have trouble orienting themselves in the city. It highlights the importance of clear orientation in space design to improve the quality of life of individuals with dementia.

6. Architecture. Possible here? Home-for-all – Japan Pavilion, 2012

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Architecture. Possible here Home-for-all_© Nico Saieh

Curated by Toyo Ito, the exhibition was awarded with the Gold Lion at the Biennale. With a storytelling approach, the project takes visitors through the process of designing houses for people who lost their homes during the tsunami in 2011. Unlike most governmental recovery plans at the time, this project carefully considered the memories of the land and their importance for local people in the design.

7. The Fold – Pakistan Pavilion, 2018

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The Fold_©herskhazeen.com

The Fold was Pakistan’s first National Pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition of the Biennale. Informal settlements in Karachi, the largest city in the country, inspired the pavilion’s design. Although the open spaces are severely confined, they still form dynamic areas where people can interact and exchange ideas in public spaces. The adaptability in limited spaces is the focus of the intervention. 

8. Eurotopie – Belgium Pavilion, 2018

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Eurotopie_©dezeen.com

In this design, curated by Traumnovelle & Roxane Le Grelle, the Belgian Pavilion presents a large, blue amphitheater as a forum for debate. It aims to discuss the situation of the European Quarter in Brussels, where there is no civic space and a weak transnational European identity. The public agora they offer represents a way to raise political commitment in European citizens.

9. Displacements – Mexico Pavilion, 2021

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Displacements_© Laurian Ghinitoiu

Displacements is an exhibition curated by Isadora Hastings, Natalia de La Rosa, Mauricio Rocha, and Elena Tudela. It explores issues like migration as a result of social inequality, violence, and disasters. The Mexican Pavilion intends to show how architectural design can promote a sense of belonging, the exchange of ideas, and the development of a community. It reveals how inadequate the reality of migrators can be. 

10. Common Collage – Thailand Pavilion, 2012

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Common Collage_© Nico Saieh

In 2012, the Thailand Pavilion presented a room filled with 40 equal boxes. Each box had its logic, designed by different architecture firms, designers, lecturers, and students, all of them from Thailand. The exhibition celebrated the diversity of Thai culture by making them share a common ground, this is the reason why it was titled Common Collage.

11. Urburb – Israel Pavilion, 2014

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Urburb_© Nico Saieh

The concept of Uburb, presented in the Israel Pavilion, represents a territory that is neither urban nor suburban. To discuss the story of one hundred years of modernist planning in Israel, four sand printers were placed in the white rooms of the pavilion. They draw master plans, neighborhoods, and buildings of the country and then erase the scenarios in a repetitive and automatic process, just like the reality of planning in Israel.

12. i-city – Russia Pavilion, 2012

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i-city_© Nico Saieh

Designed by SPEECH Techoban/Kuznetsov, the Russia Pavilion in 2012 had its walls wrapped with a series of QR Codes. Visitors received a tablet when they entered the building, and by walking around scanning the codes they obtained information about Skolkovo Innovation Center, which is a high technology business area near Moscow. The i-city represents the country’s presence in the digital world, which is filled with tons of information. 

13. Metavilla – France Pavilion, 2006

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Metavilla_©1024architecture.net
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Metavilla_©1024architecture.net

The architect Patrick BOUCHAIN, curator of the French Pavilion in 2006, transformed the building into an inhabited space during the exhibition. The gesture celebrates the essence of architecture as a place where strangers are welcomed and spaces can be appropriated. The name of the exhibition comes from the french expression “met ta vie là”, which means “put your life there”.

14. I Have Left You the Mountain – Albania Pavilion, 2016

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I Have Left You the Mountain_© Albania Pavilion

At the Venice Architecture Biennale of 2016, Albania presented a quiet room with a contemplative approach, inviting visitors to sit and listen, unlike most of the other pavilions, which usually have a lot of visual information to digest. The curators Leah Whitman-Salkin, Simon Battisti, and graphic design collective Åbäke created an album of music from 10 texts translated into Albanian that is played through the speakers in the room. The exhibition is focused on aspects of migratory life, a difficult reality in Albania.

15. What We Share – Norway Pavilion, 2021

What We Share_© National Museum of Norway

In 2021, curators Helen & Hard Architects and The National Museum of Norway transformed the Nordic Pavilion into a co-housing project. The project focuses on collectivity by presenting how architecture can be designed based on participation and sharing. The exhibition has a timber structure that can easily be built by local communities. The project is a prototype of an award-winning house in Norway that was designed in close collaboration with a group of residents.

References List

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Dezeen. (2021). British Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale examines threats to public space. [online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2021/05/20/british-pavilion-unscene-architecture-venice-architecture-biennale/. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

Dezeen. (2016).  Dezeen’s top 10 pavilions at Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/06/01/top-10-pavilions-venice-architecture-biennale-2016-reporting-from-the-front/. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

La Biennale di Venezia. (2017). History. [online] Available at: https://www.labiennale.org/en/history. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

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Venezia, S.P. 2184/A S. on G.M. (2018). Biennale Architettura 2018 | Pakistan. [online] La Biennale di Venezia. Available at: https://www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/2018/national-participations/pakistan.  [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021]. 

ArchDaily. (2012). Venice Biennale 2012: Architecture. Possible here? Home-for-all / Japan Pavilion. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/268426/venice-biennale-2012-architecture-possible-here-home-for-all-japan-pavilion. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

ArchDaily Brasil. (2021). 7 Pavilhões na Bienal de Veneza que exploram as migrações e seus impactos no espaço construído. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com.br/br/964489/7-pavilhoes-na-bienal-de-veneza-que-exploram-as-migracoes-e-seus-impactos-no-espaco-construido?ad_source=search&ad_medium=search_result_all. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021]. 

ArchDaily. (2012). Venice Biennale 2012: Thailand Pavilion. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/272448/venice-biennale-2012-thailand-pavilion. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021]. 

ArchDaily Brasil. (2014). Bienal de Veneza 2014: Tabula rasa em Israel. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com.br/br/619065/bienal-de-veneza-2014-tabula-rasa-em-israel?ad_source=search&ad_medium=search_result_all. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

ArchDaily. (2012). Venice Biennale 2012: i-city / Russia Pavilion. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/267138/venice-biennale-2012-i-city-russia-pavilion. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

ConstructLab (n.d.). Metavilla. [online] Available at: https://www.constructlab.net/projects/metavilla/. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

Kats, A. (2016). The 10 Best Pavilions at the Venice Architecture Biennale. [online] Artsy. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-the-10-best-pavilions-at-the-venice-architecture-biennale. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021]. 

Williams, F. (2021). Venice Biennale 2021: Best of the rest. [online] The Architects’ Journal. Available at: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/venice-biennale-2021-best-of-the-rest. [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].

Author

Roberta Inglês is an architecture and urbanism student at University of Brasilia, Brazil. She is passionate about urban planning and architectural history, and loves to observe how buildings and cities can influence human behavior. She believes writing is a very effective way to develop critical thinking.

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