Lifescapes Beyond Bigness, the National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition at the 2018 Venice Biennale, will reveal hidden scenes of everyday life in the UAE across four “human-scale” urban landscapes. Opening on 24 May 2018, the exhibition will highlight the interplay between the built environment and the dynamism of informal social life through images, technical drawings, maps and three-dimensional models.
The exhibition and accompanying publication examine four urban typologies, including: residential neighborhoods (Al Satwa and Al Shorta in Dubai and Baniyas in Abu Dhabi); networks of streets and sikkak (Deira and Bur Dubai in Dubai and Downtown Abu Dhabi); urban blocks (Al Zahya, Al Danah, Al Dhafrah, and Al Zaab in Abu Dhabi); and natural landscapes (Al Mutaredh Oasis and Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain).
The exhibition’s curator, Dr. Khaled Alawadi, is an Emirati architect and urban planner, and Assistant Professor of Sustainable Urbanism at Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute, part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology. He and his research team have used various spatial mapping and observation techniques to document and analyze the physical characteristics, morphology and social rhythm of the four typologies. Case studies and detailed personal stories offer insight into the anthropology of each research site.
Dr. Khaled Alawadi says: “Lifescapes Beyond Bigness is an effort to look beyond the monumental scale of the UAE’s most iconic architecture, and instead invite visitors to experience its humane and under-celebrated landscapes. These human-scale ‘quotidian landscapes’ are socially oriented, rather than being confined by bigness in architecture and urban planning. The exhibition explores how human scale landscapes are flexible, generous, and adaptable in the promotion of community engagement, social encounters, and pedestrian urbanism, from impromptu playgrounds to street-corner gardens.”
Khulood Khaldoon Al Atiyat, Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, commissioner of the National Pavilion UAE, says: “The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father, believed that urban planning should support happiness and social cohesion by putting people at the heart of development. In line with the 2018 Year of Zayed, Lifescapes Beyond Bigness honors his vision for the nation. The Emirates are home to many different ways of life, and Dr. Alawadi’s important research engages with this diversity to celebrate humanity and spontaneity.”
Opening on 24 May 2018, Lifescapes Beyond Bigness will present the simplicity of lifescapes in these hidden urban pockets through three main exhibition components.