Associate Dean of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah, Faysal Tabbarah,  has been named curator of the UAE pavilion for the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of Venice Biennale 2023. The relationship between architecture and the UAE’s arid environment is central to Tabbarah’s exhibition idea. The concept is centered on combining technology with land-based materials processes and expertise available in= the UAE’s desert regions to demonstrate that dry areas are filled with life-changing potential.

An open invitation issued by the National Pavilion UAE, which led to the appointment, encouraged designers, architects, and thinkers worldwide to submit designs for the 2023 architecture exhibition. The candidates were entrusted with investigating a fascinating feature of the UAE’s architecture or built environment that adds to the local, regional, and worldwide conversation on architectural practice.

According to Tabbarah, the research suggests that a vast reservoir of land-based knowledge exists in arid and semi-arid regions, challenging their depiction as areas of acute scarcity. The concept is based on the theme, Laboratory of the Future, and is curated by Lesley Lokko, a Ghanaian-Scottish architect, scholar, educator, and best-selling author.

National Pavilion UAE at the 2023 Venice Biennale appoints Faysal Tabbarah as the curator - Sheet1
Image courtesy of National Pavilion UAE La Biennale di Venezia_© Faysal Tabbarah

Architectural + Other Things (A+OT), an experimental architecture and design company situated in Sharjah, UAE, is an addition to Tabbarah’s academic work. The exhibition appears to continue an ongoing A+OT research project titled Other Environmentalists, which integrates environmental history and material research to generate architectural conditions that demonstrate alternatives for mainstream sustainable architectural production. 

Tabbarah’s proposal for the Biennale Architettura will be shown in Venice as research results and an accompanying book. The unique proposal, combined with the potential contrast between traditional and technological solutions, should make for an exciting exhibit – and, given the world’s increasing water scarcity, one that feels very timely. 

Her Highness Minister of Culture and Youth Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi stated: “We are happy to offer the support of the Ministry of Culture and Youth to this year’s curator. The ministry leads the cultural and creative sector in the UAE and works to strengthen the UAE’s position on the global creative map. ”  Tabbarah’s proposal will undoubtedly contribute to developing a vibrant architecture scene in the UAE. The ministry believes in growing our creatives to contribute to the country’s holistic and sustainable growth. 

(Media, Press Releases, National Pavilion UAE La Biennale de Venezia, 2022)

This exhibition will be a first for the curator at the national pavilion, International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, and his second overall in the Architecture Biennale, as he previously collaborated with the curators of the Kuwait Pavilion for their presentation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, titled Space Wars, in 2021. 

La Biennale di Venezia –  National Pavilion UAE

The National Pavilion UAE showcases new narratives about the UAE’s arts and architecture through participation in the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions organized by La Biennale di Venezia. It provides a high-profile platform for contemporary ideas that address world systems discussions from a unique regional point of view. The Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation commissioned and financed the National Presence UAE, which has a permanent pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia’s Arsenale – Sale d’Armi.

UAE appoints and works with curators, artists, and contributors for each participant in the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia, to conceive, research, and develop exhibitions. It is one of the world’s most influential and rigorous cultural platforms presenting publications that advance and preserve understanding of the UAE’s cultural landscape.  

Since 2009, shows at the Venice Biennale have chronicled the country’s cultural growth, from 20th-century experimental artists to the diversified contemporary landscape. The National Pavilion UAE’s Wetland exhibition, curated by architects Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, was awarded the Golden Lion for best National Participation at the Biennale Architettura 2021. ‘Wetland’ displayed a large-scale prototype structure composed of a new, ecologically friendly cement formed of recovered industrial waste brine, which was complemented with commissioned photography by Farah Al Qasimi.

National Pavilion UAE at the 2023 Venice Biennale appoints Faysal Tabbarah as the curator - Sheet
2021 UAE  – Golden Lion Winner_©Frederico Torra for PLANE-SITE

About Faysal Tabbarah

Faysal Tabbarah_©Augustine Parades

Tabbarah’s work examines the connections between regional environmental and architectural imaginaries, or how people bring their natural surroundings to bear on how they understand and shape their world to develop alternative building practices rooted in their surrounding material and cultural environments. Tabbarah combines computational tools, emerging technologies, materials research, and historical archives. Tabbarah has been published and exhibited all over the world. His architectural practice was selected in 2019 as part of a cooperation between Expo 2020 and Art Jameel, presenting Water in the Green with Nahel by design duo Faissal El-Malak and Alia Bin Omair.

‘Architecture and Environmental Orientalism in the Arab World,’ Tabbarah’s AUS course received an Honorable Mention for the Course Development Prize in 2020, organized by Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Water in the Green, the winning submission in the Sabeel Water Fountains competition at Expo 2020, is one of A+OT’s latest works. He formerly worked as an Assistant Professor at Denmark’s Aarhus School of Architecture.


  1. National Pavilion United Arab Emirates. 2022. Media, Press Releases, National Pavilion UAE La Biennale de Venezia. [online] Available at: <>
  2. American University of Sharjah. 2022. AUS’ Faysal Tabbara to curate the National Pavilion UAE exhibition for the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia in 2023. [online] Available at: <>

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