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Lesley Lokko © Photo: Jacopo Salvi. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia
The 18th International Architecture Exhibition, titled The Laboratory of the Future, is curated by Lesley Lokko (Ghana/Scotland), a renowned architectural academic, educator and best-selling novelist. (see biography)
Taking place from 20 May to 26 November 2023 at the Giardini, the Arsenale, and Forte Marghera, it will be the first major exhibition in this discipline to test in the field the process to achieve carbon neutrality, while furthermore reflecting upon the themes of decolonisation and decarbonisation.
“What does it mean to be ‘an agent of change’? (…) Over the past nine months, in hundreds of conversations, text messages, Zoom calls and meetings,” stated Lesley Lokko, “the question of whether exhibitions of this scale — both in terms of carbon and cost — are justified, has surfaced time and again. In May last year, I referred to the exhibition several times as ‘a story’, a narrative unfolding in space. Today, my understanding has changed. 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 which 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’.”
“(…) For the first time ever, the spotlight has fallen on Africa and the African Diaspora, that fluid and enmeshed culture of people of African descent that now straddles the globe. What do we wish to say? How will what we say change anything? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how will what we say interact with and infuse what ‘others’ say, so that the exhibition is not a single story, but multiple stories that reflect the vexing, gorgeous kaleidoscope of ideas, contexts, aspirations, and meanings that is every voice responding to the issues of its time?”
“It is often said that culture is the sum total of the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Whilst it is true, what is missing in the statement is any acknowledgement of who the ‘we’ in question is. In architecture particularly, the dominant voice has historically been a singular, exclusive voice, whose reach and power ignores huge swathes of humanity — financially, creatively, conceptually — as though we have been listening and speaking in one tongue only. The ‘story’ of architecture is therefore incomplete. Not wrong, but incomplete. It is in this context particularly that exhibitions matter.” – (see complete statement)
“The Laboratory of the Future is an exhibition in six parts. It includes 89 participants, over half of whom are from Africa or the African Diaspora. The gender balance is 50/50, and the average age of all participants is 43, dropping to 37 in the Curator’s Special Projects, where the youngest is 24 (see the list of participants). 46% of participants count education as a form of practice, and, for the first time ever, nearly half of participants are from sole or individual practices of five people or less. Across all the parts of The Laboratory of the Future, over 70% of exhibits are by practices run by an individual or a very small team. (…)”
“Central to all the projects is the primacy and potency of one tool: the imagination - Lokko said. It is impossible to build a better world if one cannot first imagine it. The Laboratory of the Future begins in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, where 16 practices who represent a distilled force majeure of African and Diasporic architectural production have been gathered. It moves to the Arsenale complex, where participants in the Dangerous Liaisons section – also represented in Forte Marghera in Mestre - rub shoulders with the Curator’s Special Projects, for the first time a category that is as large as the others. Threaded through and amongst the works in both venues are young African and Diasporan practitioners, our Guests from the Future, whose work engages directly with the twin themes of this exhibition, decolonisation and decarbonisation, providing a snapshot, a glimpse of future practices and ways of seeing and being in the world. (…) We have deliberately chosen to frame participants as ‘practitioners’ – the Curator stated – and not ‘architects’ and/or ‘urbanists’, ‘designers’, ‘landscape architects’, ‘engineers’ or ‘academics’ because it is our contention that the rich, complex conditions of both Africa and a rapidly hybridising world call for a different and broader understanding of the term ‘architect’. (see complete statement)
The Laboratory of the Future programme is enriched by Carnival, a six-month-long cycle of events, lectures, panel discussions, films, and performances, that explore the themes of the Biennale Architettura 2023.
“Conceived as a space of liberation rather than a spectacle or entertainment, Carnival offers a space for communication in which words, views, perspectives, and opinions are traded, heard, analysed, and remembered – Lokko said. Politicians, policymakers, poets, filmmakers, documentary makers, writers, activists, community organisers and public intellectuals will share the stage with architects, academics, and students. This public event programme is increasingly a form of architectural practice that attempts to bridge the gulf between architects and the public.”
64 National Participations will organize their exhibitions in the historic Pavilions at the Giardini (27), at the Arsenale (22) and in the city centre of Venice (14). Niger participates for the first time at the Biennale Architettura; Panama participates for the first time with its own pavilion and has already participated in previous editions as part of the I.I.L.A. (Italo-Latin American International Organization).
The Holy See returns to the Biennale Architettura, participating with its own Pavilion on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore (it participated in the Biennale Architettura for the first time in 2018).
The Italian Pavilion at the Tese delle Vergini in the Arsenale, sponsored and promoted by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture, is curated by the Fosbury Architecture collective, consisting of Giacomo Ardesio, Alessandro Bonizzoni, Nicola Campri, Veronica Caprino, Claudia Mainardi. The title of the exhibition is SPAZIALE: Everyone Belongs to Everyone Else.
See the 64 National Participations
(From press information, La Biennale di Venezia)
Golden Lion for the best National Participation:
Commissioner: José Olympio da Veiga Pereira, president of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo
Curators: Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares
Exhibitors: Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Ayrson Heráclito, Day Rodrigues with the collaboration of Vilma Patrícia Santana Silva, Fissura collective, Ilê Axé Iyá Nassô Oká (Casa Branca do Engenho Velho), Juliana Vicente, Mbya-Guarani Indigenous People, Tukano, Arawak and Maku Indigenous Peoples, Tecelãs do Alaká (Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá), Thierry Oussou, Vídeo nas Aldeias
Special mention for a National Participation:
Dancing Before the Moon
Commissioner: Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council
Curators: Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham
Exhibitors: Yussef Agbo-Ola, Jayden Ali, Mac Collins, Shawanda Corbett, Madhav Kidao, Sandra Poulson
Golden Lion for the best participant in the 18th Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future:
Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal
Dangerous Liaisons section
Venue: Corderie, Arsenale
Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the 18th Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future:
Olalekan Jeyifous: * 1977 Ibadan, Nigeria
Venue: Central Pavilion, Giardini
Three special mentions:
Twenty Nine Studio / Sammy Baloji
Sammy Baloji: * 1978 Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Dangerous Liaisons section
Venue: Corderie, Arsenale
(Cape Town, Republic of South Africa)
Ilze Wolff: * 1980 Cape Town, South Africa; Heinrich Wolff: * 1970 Johannesburg, South Africa
Dangerous Liaisons section
Venue: Corderie, Arsenale
Thandi Loewenson: * 1989 Harare, Zimbabwe
Force Majeure section
Venue: Central Pavilion, Giardini
Golden Lion for Best National Participation to Brazil for a research exhibition and architectural intervention that center the philosophies and imaginaries of indigenous and black population towards modes of reparation.
Special mention as National Participation to Great Britain for the curatorial strategy and design propositions celebrating the potency of everyday rituals as forms of resistance and spatial practices in diasporic communities.
Golden Lion for the best participant in the 18th Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future to DAAR – Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal for their long-standing commitment to deep political engagement with architectural and learning practices of decolonization in Palestine and Europe.
Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the 18th Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future to Olalekan Jeyifous for a multimedia installation that explores a worldbuilding practice that expands public perspectives and imaginations, offering visions of a decolonized and decarbonized future.
Special mention to the participant in the 18th Exhibition The Laboratory of the Future:
Twenty Nine Studio / Sammy Baloji for a three parts installation that interrogates the past, present, and future of the Democratic Republic of Congo, through an excavation of colonial architectural archives.
Wolff Architects for an installation that reflects a collaborative and multimodal design practice as well as a nuanced and imaginative approach to resources, research, and representation.
Thandi Loewenson for a militant research practice that materializes spatial histories of land struggles, extraction, and liberation through the medium of graphite and speculative writing as design tools.
The artist, designer and architect Baba (a Nigerian honorific title) Demas Nwoko (* 1935 in Idumuje-Ugboko, southern Nigeria) is the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
Press release, 23 March 2023
Members of the International Jury of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition:
Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli - President
Italian architect and curator based in Milan. He is the founder of 2050+, an interdisciplinary agency moving across technology, politics, design, and environmental practices. He curated Open, the Russian Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2021 and co-curated Manifesta’s 12th edition in Palermo in 2018. Between 2007 and 2019 he has worked as architect and partner at OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture). He teaches at the Royal College of Arts in London Data Matter, a research and design studio exploring the entangled relationship between data and the material world. Latest projects include Synthetic Cultures at the 10th Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam; the short film diptych Riders Not Heroes; the exhibitions Aquaria at MAAT in Lisbon and Penumbra in Venice; the design for the space of the Fredriksen’s collection at the National Museum of Norway in Oslo; and the transformation of La Rinascente’s modernist building icon in Rome.
Palestinian architect and curator living in New York. She is an assistant professor of architecture at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and a co-founding partner in the interdisciplinary research and design studio interim. She co-curated the Pavilion of Barhain at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, titled Friday Sermon (2018). Her teaching and research focus on transcontinental South-South anti-colonial solidarity and on architecture’s role in erasure and bordering in settler colonialism, drawing from border studies, critical geography, and archive theory. Nora taught at Columbia University’s GSAPP, where she was the director of Studio-X Amman and initiated the Janet Abu-Lughod Library and Seminar. She currently serves on the editorial boards of the journals Faktur: Documents and Architecture and InForma, the peer-reviewed architecture publication of the Universidad de Puerto Rico
(USA) Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, the world’s leading institution devoted to visual art by artists of African descent, where she began her career in 1987 before joining the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. She returned to the Studio Museum in 2000 as Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs and was named Director and Chief Curator in 2005. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Barack Obama Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She holds a B.A. in Art History and African American Studies from Smith College. She was appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House by President Obama in 2010.
(South-Africa) Co-founder, curator and editor of Cityscapes, a hybrid annual publication that showcases different ideas, and narratives on the built environment and cities globally from Africa, Latin America, and South Asia perspectives. He’s a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) (2018), an Aspen Global Leadership Fellow, a Research Fellow in Advanced Visualization at Max Planck Institute (2019-2023), and a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics' LSE Cities from 2020-22. He is also the Curator-at-Large at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town and was curator of the 2022 Lisbon Architecture Triennale’s Multiplicity exhibition. With Edgar Pieterse, he is a co-founder of the CS Collective.
(Poland) A registered architect in Spain, and a researcher and educator based in London. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Reading, where she is the Director of the Master of Architecture Programme and the acting Research Lead for Architecture. She was a co-director of an award-winning Madrid-based office Gálvez+Wieczorek Arquitectura (2003-2016). Her work has been presented in several publications, including ‘Cartographies of the Imagination’, London (2021), ‘Works+Words Biennale of Artistic Research in Architecture’, KADK, Copenhagen (2019), and the Spanish Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia Exhibition (2018). She curated the In-Between public lecture series at Arkitektskolen Aarhus, Denmark (2013-2016).
Opening times 2023
Giardini / Arsenale / Forte Marghera:
20 May – 30 September: 11 am - 7 pm
1 October – 26 November: 10 am – 6 pm
Closed on Mondays
Extraordinary openings: Monday 22 May, 14 August, 4 September, 16 October, 30 October, 20 November 2023
Photo on top: Serge Attukwei Clottey: Time and Chance
© Photo: Marco Zorzanello. Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia