Looking Forward to the Biennale in May

John Hill
28. February 2020
Alison Brooks, ”Axonometric,” Home Ground, 2020. Courtesy Alison Brooks Architects (from Scale 2: As New Households)

A press conference on Thursday, February 27, revealed that the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale will open as planned on May 23 despite the coronavirus outbreak in Northern Italy. Curator Hashim Sarkis unveiled additional information on the exhibition's theme and some of its participants.

March 4 update: La Biennale di Venezia has postponed the opening from May 23 until August 29.

Sarkis, who was selected in December 2018 to direct the Biennale's 17th International Architecture Exhibition, revealed the theme last summer: How will we live together? In a livestream from his office (starting at ~10m25s) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Sarkis is Dean of MIT School of Architecture + Planning) on Thursday, Sarkis elaborated on the theme, unpacking it word by word:

  • 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.
Studio Ossidiana, Variation on a Bird Cage, 2019-20. Courtesy Studio Ossidiana (from Scale 1: Among Diverse Beings)

Responses to the exhibition's question will come from works by 114 participants. They will be organized into five scales, the first three on display in the Arsenale and the last two in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini. The scales increase in size from the human body to the planet and outer space.

  • Scale 1: Among Diverse Beings (Designing for New Bodies, Living with Other Beings)
  • Scale 2: As New Households (Catering to New Demographics, Inhabiting New Tectonics, Living Apart Together)
  • Scale 3: As Emerging Communities (Engaging Varied Forms of Civicness, Re-equipping Society, Coming Together in Venice, Co-habitats: Showing how we do live together in...)
  • Scale 4: Across Borders (Transcending the Urban-Rural Divide, Linking the Levant, Bridging Infrastructures, Protecting Global Commons)
  • Scale 5: As One Planet (Making Worlds, Uniting the Nations, Changing Designs for Climate Change, Networking Space)
Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture, “Stone Garden North Façade,” Stone Garden under construction a year ago, 2020. © Takuji Shimmura (from Scale 2: As New Households)

La Biennale di Venezia, the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, How will we live together? will take place in Venice (Giardini and Arsenale) from May 23 to November 29, 2020, with the pre-opening on May 21 and 22.

Han Tümertekin, View of the ferry market in Istanbul, 2019. Photo: Sena Özfiliz, 3d editing: Ali Gürer and Zeynep Tümertekin (from Scale 3: As Emerging Communities)
raumlabor, “imaginary of a multiple use in haus der statistik - a collective civic reinvention of a disused gdr govenment building in central berlin” 2015-20. Courtesy raumlabor (from Scale 3: As Emerging Communities)
Leong Leong, Anita May Rosenstein Campus, 2019. Courtesy Iwan Baan (from Scale 3: As Emerging Communities)
Olalekan Jeyifous and Mpho Matsipa, Liquid Geographies, Liquid Borders, 2020. Courtesy Olalekan Jeyifous (from Scale 4: Across Borders)
Bureau of Engineering, Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. / HNTB Corporation, “City of Los Angeles,” Sixth Street Viaduct. Courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture (from Scale 4: Across Borders)
Dogma, “You always seemed so sure that one day we’d be fighting,” The Opposite Shore, 2016-19. Courtesy Dogma (from Scale 4: Across Borders)
Cave_bureau, “Mbai Cave Steam + Struggle,” The Anthropocene Museum: Exhibit 3.0 “Obsidian Rain,” 2017. Courtesy Cave_bureau (from Scale 5: As One Planet)

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