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The National Pavilion UAE has appointed Faysal Tabbarah, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah, as curator for the UAE’s participation in the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2023. The selected research proposal by Tabbarah aims to explore the relationship between architecture and arid, or dry, landscapes in the UAE and reimagine them as spaces of abundance and productivity.
Tabbarah was selected following the National Pavilion UAE’s open call which invited designers, architects and thinkers based in the UAE and around the world, to develop proposals for the 2023 architecture exhibition. The applicants were tasked with exploring an intriguing aspect of the UAE’s architecture or built environment that contributes to the discourse around architectural practice locally, regionally, and internationally.
Research findings by Tabbarah, to be exhibited in Venice and supplemented with an accompanying publication, aim to respond to the 2023 Biennale Architettura 2023’s theme “The Laboratory of the Future”, which is being curated by Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, educator and best-selling novelist, Lesley Lokko.
“My approach will rely on integrating technology with land-based materials practices and knowledge found in arid landscapes in the UAE,” said curator Faysal Tabbarah, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah. “I am honored to have been selected as the curator for the National Pavilion UAE, and I’d like to thank the Commissioner, the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation for this opportunity to expand on research that is becoming increasingly crucial to the architectural discourse globally. Aridity is a fast-approaching future condition for many regions, and through this exhibition, we’ll explore their potential as spaces of abundance and productivity.”
This exhibition will mark Tabbarah’s first participation as a curator of a national pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, and his second participation in the Architecture Biennale as a whole, as he has previously collaborated with the Kuwait Pavilion’s curators in 2021 for their presentation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, titled Space Wars.
© Photo: Augustine Paredes. Courtesy National Pavilion UAE
Born in Aleppo, Faysal Tabbarah is an Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture at the College of Architecture, Art and Design at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), and co-founder of the experimental architecture and design studio, Architecture + Other Things (A+OT), which is based in Sharjah. Tabbarah is also the curator of the National Pavilion UAE for the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2023.
Tabbarah’s work, across teaching, research, and practice, explores the relationships 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 that are rooted in their surrounding material and cultural environments. To achieve this, Tabbarah’s work moves between computational tools, emergent technologies, materials research and historical archives.
Tabbarah has published and exhibited globally. In 2020, Tabbarah’s course at AUS, Architecture and Environmental Orientalism in the Arab World, received an Honorable Mention for the Course Development Prize organized by Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
A+OT’s recently completed projects include Water in the Green, the winning entry for Sabeel Water Fountains competition at Expo 2020. He has previously held the position of Assistant Professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark.
The National Pavilion UAE is an award-winning pavilion that curates the untold stories about the UAE’s arts and architecture through its participation in the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions organized by La Biennale di Venezia and provides a high-profile platform for curatorial concepts that address critical international conversations from a distinctive local perspective.
For every participation in the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia, one of the world’s most significant and rigorous cultural platforms, the National Pavilion UAE appoints and works with curators, artists, and contributors to conceive, research and develop an exhibition and accompanying publication that advance and preserve understanding of the UAE’s cultural landscape.
Since 2009, National Pavilion UAE’s exhibitions have explored the nation’s cultural evolution from 20th-century experimental artists to the diverse contemporary scene. In 2021, National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition titled Wetland curated by architects Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, was awarded the Golden Lion for best National Participation at La the Biennale Architettura 2021, coinciding with the National Pavilion’s 10th participation in the International Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia. [see all the editions in UiU]
In parallel with its exhibitions in Venice, the National Pavilion UAE engages with communities in the UAE to support the growth of the local cultural and creative industries, through public programming and professional opportunities. Alongside an extensive pool of artists, curators, researchers and partners who have contributed to its exhibitions over the years, the UAE’s Venice Internship program has provided training and hands-on experience to more than 200 interns, many of whom are now successfully working in cultural fields. The National Pavilion UAE is an independent non-profit organization, commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth.
The Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation (SHF) is a private not-for-profit foundation committed to the cultivation of a more creative, connected and thriving UAE community. Based in Abu Dhabi, SHF oversees a diverse portfolio of not-for-profit programs and initiatives spanning the arts, culture, heritage, human development and early childhood development in the UAE and internationally. Underpinning SHF's activities is a common ambition to invest in the knowledge and capabilities of the UAE people in order to support them to unlock their full potential.
The Ministry of Culture and Youth works to enrich the cultural ecosystem in the UAE through initiatives and policies that stimulate the development of the cultural and creative industries and its contribution to the country's GDP, developing new legislation and policies that promote integrated media growth in the country and creating avenues for the youth to invest their capabilities in the aforementioned fields.
The Ministry of Culture and Youth is responsible for empowering and engaging the youth in the UAE by enhancing their leadership skills, involving them in decision-making process and programs, and giving them opportunities to contribute to the creative development of the country.
From press information.
© Photos: Courtesy of the National Pavilion UAE
© Image top: Photo by Faysal Tabbarah