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17th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia

Hashim Sarkis, © Photo: Bryce Vickmark

The International Exhibition How will we live together? includes 112 participants in competition from 46 countries, with a growing delegation from Africa, Latin America and Asia and with comparable representation of men and women. 63 National Participations will bring to life the historic Pavilions in the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the historic city centre. A total of 17 Collateral Events by national and international non-profit entities and institutions will take place in various venues in the city. The programme is complemented by the Meetings on Architecture as well as by a large Educational Program.

Extracts from Hashim Sarkis' statement:

We need a new spatial contract. In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together:

- together as human beings who, despite our increasing individuality, yearn to connect with one another and with other species across digital and real space;
- together as new households looking for more diverse and dignified spaces for inhabitation;
- together as emerging communities that demand equity, inclusion, and spatial identity;
- together across political borders to imagine new geographies of association;
- together as a planet facing crises that require global action for all of us to continue living at all.

The participants in the 17th International Architecture Exhibition are collaborating with other professions and constituencies - artists, builders, engineers, and craftspeople, but also politicians, journalists, social scientists, and everyday citizens. In effect, the Biennale Architettura 2021 asserts the vital role of the architect as both cordial convener and custodian of the spatial contract.

In parallel, this Exhibition also maintains that it is in its material, spatial, and cultural specificity that architecture inspires the ways we live together. In that respect, we ask the participants to highlight those aspects of the main theme that are uniquely architectural.

Unpacking the Question

The theme of the Biennale Architettura 2021 is its title. The title is a question. The question is open:

How: Speaks to practical approaches and concrete solutions, highlighting the primacy of problem solving in architectural thinking.

Will: Signals looking toward the future, but also seeking vision and determination, drawing from the power of the architectural imaginary.

We: Stands for first person, plural, and thus inclusive (of other peoples, of other species), appealing to a more empathetic understanding of architecture.

Live: Means not simply to exist but to thrive, to flourish, to inhabit, and to express life, tapping into architecture’s inherent optimism.

Together: Implies collectives, commons, universal values, highlighting architecture as a collective form and a form of expression.

?: Indicates an open question, not a rhetorical one, looking for (many) answers, celebrating the plurality of values in and through architecture.

The question, "How will we live together?" is at once ancient and urgent. The Babylonians asked it as they were building their tower. Aristotle asked it when he was writing about politics. His answer was "the city. " The French and American Revolutions asked it. Against the tumultuous backdrop of the early 1970s, Timmy Thomas passionately pleaded it in his song "Why Can’t We Live Together?". It is indeed as much a social and political question as a spatial one. More recently, rapidly changing social norms, the political polarization between left and right, climate change, and the growing gap between labor and capital are making this question more urgently relevant and at different scales than before. In parallel, the weakness of the political models being proposed today compels us to put space first and, perhaps like Aristotle, look at the way architecture shapes inhabitation in order to imagine potential models for how we could live together. (…)

The current global pandemic has no doubt made the question that this Biennale Architettura is asking all the more relevant and timely, even if somehow ironic, given the imposed isolation. It may indeed be a coincidence that the theme was proposed a few months before the pandemic. However, many of the reasons that initially led us to ask this question - the intensifying climate crisis, massive population displacements, political instabilities around the world, and growing racial, social, and economic inequalities, among others - have led us to this pandemic and have become all the more relevant.

Five Scales

The Biennale Architettura 2021 is organized into five scales:

Three in the Arsenale
1. Among Diverse Beings
2. As New Households
3. As Emerging Communities

Two in the Central Pavilion
4. Across Borders
5. As One Planet

Projects range from the analytic to the conceptual, the experimental, the tested and proven, to the widely deployed. Each of these is in turn addressed through a series of themes and each one is housed in individual rooms of the Biennale buildings and grounds.

In addition to the invited participants, the 2021 Biennale also includes a series of research stations that support the Exhibition, developed by researchers from universities around the world.

The grounds of Forte Marghera will feature projects devoted to children’s play, by five architects and an architectural photographer under the subtheme: “How Will We Play Together?”.

The digital project offers videos, podcasts, images, and contributions to “peek” behind the scenes leading up to the 17th International Architecture Exhibition.

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The videos and images will answer five questions posed by Sarkis to all the participants:

- How can we answer the question How will we live together? today, and how do we also involve an audience that is not specialized in the issues of architecture?

- How did your team collaborate in the project and how can the role of the architect be defined as that of a convener?

- Every architectural space inspires new social arrangements and relationships: how do you represent that relationship in your project?

- How does your project relate to the scales (Among Diverse Beings, As New Households, As Emerging Communities, Across Borders, As One Planet) identified in the Exhibition theme?

- The Biennale Architettura has been postponed to 2021 due to the global health emergency still underway. It may be too soon to describe the impact of the pandemic on architecture, on the Biennale, on the projects and on the theme of the exhibition. But beyond that, what do we expect from the Biennale Architettura 2021, given the many challenges that Venice has faced in recent years at the global level?

Biennale Sneak Peek ►

From press information
© Portrait photo: Bryce Vickmark, Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia
Cover photo: Achim Menges, Jan Knippers: Material Culture: Rethinking the Physical Substrate for Living Together, 2021, Arsenale. © Photo: Marco Zorzanello. Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia

Special Feature by UiU:

Wetland. Eco-friendly cement prototype and photographs by Farah Al Qasimi. Curators: Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. Commissioner: Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Arsenale, Sale d'Armi.

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Awards - 17th International Architecture Exhibition

Golden Lion for the best National Participation:
United Arab Emirates

Two Special Mentions for National Participations:

Golden Lion for best participant in the International Exhibition How will we live together?
(Berlin, Germany)

Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the International Exhibition How will we live together?
Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST)
(Amsterdam, The Netherlands; New York, USA)

Special mention:
(Nairobi, Kenya)

Lina Bo Bardi (1914 - 1992), the Italian architect, designer, scenographer, artist and critic naturalized as a Brazilian citizen, is the recipient of the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Rafael Moneo - Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

The Spanish architect, educator, critic and theoretician Rafael Moneo (* 1937 Tudela, Spain) is the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Awards – The Motivations

Golden Lion for Best National Participation to United Arab Emirates for a bold experiment which encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production at both the local and global scales, and opens to new construction possibilities between craft and high technology.

Special mention as National Participation to Russia for a sensitive and careful architectural renovation of a historical pavilion at the Giardini that opens it to its immediate surroundings and to the future.

Special mention as National Participation to Philippines for this exemplary community project that creates a rich archive and experience of collaborative construction practices.

Golden Lion for the best participant in the 17th Exhibition How will we live together? to raumlaborberlin (Berlin, Germany) for an inspiring collaborative approach that argues for participation, regeneration and collective responsibility, resulting in two projects that are a model for imaginative civic revitalization.

Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the 17th Exhibition How will we live together? to Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST) (Amsterdam, The Netherlands; New York, USA) for a daring proposal that invites us to think about divided histories, agricultural practices, rituals of daily life and the realities of settlement and occupation.

Special mention to the participant in the 17th Exhibition How will we live together? to Cave_bureau (Nairobi, Kenya) for an imaginative and creative exploration of one of man’s oldest living environments.

International Jury

Members of the Jury of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition:

Kazuyo Sejima - President
(Japan) Architect and winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2010, she curated the Biennale Architettura (People meet in architecture) that same year. Owner and founder of the firm SANAA with Ryue Nishizawa, she is distinguished by her commitment to architectural form as the field’s primary domain of intervention in the social and spatial realms.

Sandra Barclay
(Peru) An architect working between Lima and Paris, was the co-curator for the Peruvian Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2016, winning a Special Mention of the Jury. She brings a heightened awareness of the poetic role of architecture as a transformative building act in extreme contexts.

Lamia Joreige
(Lebanon) A visual artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Beirut. Co-founder and co-director of the Beirut Art Center, she offers a very acute view of architecture and the city as cultural material and as rich domains for artistic expression.

Lesley Lokko
(Ghana-Scotland) A successful architect and writer who lives between Johannesburg, London, Accra and Edinburgh. She was the founder and director of the Graduate School of Architecture of the University of Johannesburg (2014-2019) and Dean of the Spitzer School of Architecture City College of New York (2019-2021). She is a Visiting Professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Lokko brings deep and critical perspective on the relationship between architecture, social, and economic development and the environment.

Luca Molinari
(Italy) An architect, historian, critic, journalist and curator. In 2010 he was the curator of the Italian Pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. He is the scientific director of the M9 Museum in Mestre (Venice). His profile ensures a vast array of angles from which he views architecture, its public role, and the agency of the architect in society.

Practical information

Giardini and Arsenale, opening times:
22 May - 21 November 2021
Tue - Sun 10 am - 6 pm
Last admission: 5:45 pm
Closed on Mondays

More information, tickets, education, guided tours, access, contacts, etc.:
Website La Biennale di Venezia

Organizer, contact:
La Biennale di Venezia
Settore Architettura
Ca' Giustinian
San Marco 1364/A
30124 Venezia, Italy
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Architecture Press Office:
Tel. +39 041 5218 – 849/846/716

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