Venice Biennale 2021: How will we live together?

31 May 2021

After a year or so of relative emptiness, Venice welcomed visitors to the 17th International Architecture Exhibition: How will we live together? 

“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,” says curator of the 2021 Venice Biennale, Hashim Sarkis. 

Photographer Mary Gaudin turned her lens to the opening weekend of the exhibition — an exploration of architecture in a changed world, where quiet streets prevailed and offered an enchanting, if not confronting, perspective.

con-nect-ed-ness. Entirely based on the theme of connection, this seating area in the Danish pavilion exists as a space for visitors to sit and drink herbal tea, which is brewed from herbs grown on-site by recycling rainwater from the roof into a stream running through the pavilion.


Hospital of the Future by OMA, in the main exhibition space in the Arsenale, reflects on the role of healthcare institutions in the future, questioning whether the Western model of healthcare has reached its limits.


A lone visitor in the sculpture garden, which was designed by Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa in the early 1950s for the Italian pavilion, the largest and central Biennale building.


United Kingdom: The Garden of Privatised Delights. Inspired by The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, the project imagines possible transformations of the public space in favour of greater inclusiveness, in contrast with the increasing expansion of the private sector in public spaces in the UK.


United Arab Emirates: Wetlands. The traditional production of cement is responsible for eight per cent of world carbon emissions. This project considers an experimental alternative to concrete based on oversaturated saltwater, a waste product of industrial scale desalination. The idea of a resistant, insoluble building material has been inspired by salt crystals and other minerals found in salt-pans in the United Arab Emirates.


USA: American Framing. Through a monumental five-storey timber installation at the Pavilion’s entrance, the visitor’s attention is drawn to the wooden frame. A selection of models of buildings from the twentieth century characterised by timber frames and exquisite black and white photography by Daniel Shea, highlight the traditional and contemporary use of the wooden frame in American architecture.


Andrew Barry, Paola Boarin, Michael Davis and Kathy Waghorn: Learning from Trees. Drawing together indigenous and small-scale engineered timber with ubiquitous three-axis CC milling, the pavilion consists of 436 slender sticks of engineered, plantation grown, pine. Each stick is CNC milled, notched and drilled according to its place in a diagonal lattice that deliberately conflates surface and structure. The lattice wraps an airy 3.3m high, wedge-shaped space.


Philippines: Structure of Mutual Support. The concept of bayanihan is central to Filipino culture and transcends the boundaries of architecture, representing the unitary spirit of a community that becomes real when it cooperates to achieve a shared goal.


Uzbekistan: Malhalla – Urban Rural Living. For their first entry in the biennale, the Uzbekistan Pavilion highlights a dwindling and historic type of community living, displaying a traditional Uzbek malhalla house covering the entire floor space of the pavilion.


Japan: Co-ownership of Action : Trajectories of Elements. A traditional Japanese wooden house has been disassembled and reassembled in the pavilion to show that architecture is on a continuum: rooted in the past, linked to the future and belonging to each of us.


Belgium: Composite Presence. Fifty 1:15 scale architectural projects from the last twenty years, arranged at table height, are the constituent elements of an imaginary Flemish scenario where styles, functions and different types of buildings converge into a balanced architectural environment.

Photography: Mary Gaudin

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