Curators of the British Pavilion

3 min read

Architects Peter St John and Adam Caruso (Caruso St John Architects) and artist Marcus Taylor have been selected by the British Council as curators of the British Pavilion for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. The pavilion will be transformed in one generous public space and meeting point in Giardini. This is in line with the overall theme ‘Freespace’, set by the 2018 Architecture Biennale curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (Grafton Architects). The ‘Island’ concept of the British curators should spark debate in the pre-Brexit year.

Redshank from West
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises; Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. The Tempest, Shakespeare /// Redshank from West © Photo: Helene Binet

The proposal was selected by an advisory panel of 7 architecture professionals from the UK, chaired by Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council. The thought-provoking proposal, including the quote from Shakespeare, impressed all of them and resulted in a unanimous choice.

Britsh Pavilion Curators 2018 Caurso St John and Marcus Taylor © British Council_Lucia Scerankov

A blend of architecture and art

This collaboration between two architects and one artist is bound to result in an intriguing exhibition. The mixed partnership, however, feels natural for both parties.

On the one hand, it is in line with the interest in art, sensitivity to the installation of art and profound expertise within the art world of Caruso St John Architects. They are well-known for their museum and gallery projects, that include public institutions and commercial galleries, as well as work for artists. Their Newport Street Gallery for Damien Hirst won the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2016. Other recent examples in the cultural sector include the Millbank project at Tate Britain, Nottingham Contemporary and the Gagosian Galleries in London, Rome, Paris and Hong Kong.

On the other hand, artist Marcus Taylor regularly works with architects on large scale projects. One stunning example is the Redshank project, which he developed together with Lisa Shell Architects. This beautiful structure, made of cork and cross-laminated timber, stands on 3 metal supports over reclaimed marshland along the coastal waters in Essex. It even incorporates nesting and bat boxes. In 2017, the project received a RIBA East Award and a RIBA East Small Project Award and was nominated for the RIBA House of the Year.



This is not the first collaboration between Caruso St John Architects and Marcus Taylor. The curators have recently worked together on a proposal for the UK Holocaust Memorial
in the Victoria Tower Gardens in London. It consists of a cast, translucent sculpture above ground and a series of large chambers below ground. The sculpture brings natural light into the largest and most memorable of these spaces, the ‘Hall of Voices’. The stunning proposal was one of the 10 shortlisted designs. This project would fit perfectly in the ‘Freespace’ theme of the 2018 Architecture Biennale.

Part of the series:

Freespace [#3] – See you in Venice …

More about this theme

The urban design projects of Caruso St John Architects are concerned with the close physical relationship between buildings, public space, and the feeling of being in the city. One of their current projects is the transformation of the ‘Lycée Hôtelier de Lille’, a historically important industrial area in the city of Lille (France). The combination of former factory structures, open spaces of a disused industrial complex and new structures will form a natural bridge between the existing communities that surround the site, and the new communities that will inhabit this new urban quarter.

The British Pavilion, Venice
The British Pavilion, Venice. © John Riddy

La Biennale di Venezia

Caruso St John Architects has already participated in the Architecture Biennale in Venice. In 2010, they presented – together with the German artist Thomas Demand – a full scale fragment of their ‘Nagelhaus’ project for the City of Zurich. In 2012, Caruso St John Architects curated the ‘Pasticcio’ exhibition. They invited a group of seven contemporary European architects from different countries and generations. These exhibitions were not part of the British Pavilion, but of the overall exhibition in the central pavilion in Giardini. Marcus Taylor has never participated in the Biennale. His work has been exhibited in the UK and abroad, among other places in the Saatchi Gallery and the British Art Show. His work has been collected by several major institutions including the Tate, Fondation Cartier and private collectors. The British Pavilion in Giardini was opened at the 8th Art Biennale in 1909. The building originally housed the café and restaurant of La Biennale. It was redesigned by Edwin Alfred Rickards, a representative of British Edwardian classicism, with the support of William Frank Brangwyn for the interior. In this beautiful setting, Caruso St John Architects and Marcus Taylor follow in the curatorial footsteps of Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams (HomeEconomics, 2016) and Sam Jacob and Wouter Vanstiphout (A Clockwork Jerusalem, 2014).

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