History of the Architecture Biennale in Venice

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The architect as a seismograph, the theme for 2018: Freespace and the the British Pavilion …

No present without a past

With only 16 editions, much younger than the Art Biennale, the Architecture Biennale fascinates visitors with a long, complex history full of highs and lows. Only in 1991 was it completely detached from the Art Biennale and established as an exhibition in its own right and with its own time schedule. Since then, it has been held across the entire Arsenale, at the national pavilions and the central pavilion in the Giardini.


The architect as a seismograph

The list of curators for the main exhibitions of the past reads like a random cross-section of the most recent decades of architectural history: Paolo Portoghesi (1980 & 1982), Aldo Rossi (1985 & 1986), Francesco Dal Co (1991), Hans Hollein (1996), Massimiliano Fuksas (2000), Deyan Sudjic (2002), Kurt W. Forster (2004), Richard Burdett (2006), Aaron Bet- sky (2008), Kazuyo Sejima (2010), David Chipperfield (2012), Rem Koolhaas (2014),  Alejandro Aravena (2016) and this year Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects.

Theme for 2018: Freespace

The curators are Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. They titled the 16th International Architecture Exhibition Freespace, and explained their choice with the following words:

„With the theme of Freespace, the Biennale Architettura 2018 will present for public scrutiny examples, proposals, elements – built or unbuilt – of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of architecture.“

The British Pavilion

At the 5th Architecture Biennale in 1990, the national pavilions in the Giardini were used for the first time to house exhibits. Since then, we can look back on an impressive diversity of themes and settings:

Photography: John Riddy, courtesy of the British Council
  • 1991 Sir Norman Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw, Michael Hopkins, John Outram, Sir Richard Rogers, James Stirling and Michael Wilford: „British Architecture Today: Six Protagonists“
  • 1996 Professor Michael Brawn: „The Architecture of Information“
  • 2000 Alsop & Stormer, Nigel Coates & Doug Branson, David Chipperfield and Zaha Hadid: „City Visionaries“
  • 2002 Fashid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera Polo: „Foreign Office Architects (FOA)“
  • 2004 Peter Cook: „Nine Positions“
  • 2006 Jeremy Till: „Echo/City – An Urban Register“
  • 2008 Ellis Woodman: „Home/Away“
  • 2010 muf architecture: „Villa Frankenstein“
  • 2012 Vanessa Norwood and Vicky Richardson: „Venice Takeaway“
  • 2014 Sam Jacob and Wouter Vanstiphout: „A Clockwork Jerusalem“
  • 2016 Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams: „Home Economics“
  • 2018 Caruso St John and Marcus Taylor: „Islands“

The British Pavilion 2018: Islands

Caruso St John Architects and artist Marcus Taylor have been selected as the curatorial team for the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. Their concept engages with current political debates and responds to the theme of Freespace.

„It is an honour for us to have been selected to curate the British Pavilion. In the year before Brexit, we plan to transform the building into a generous public space that can be a popular meeting point within the gardens of the Biennale.“
Peter St John, Partner at Caruso St John Architects
„The uncertainties that exist in today’s world give the British Pavilion a new imperative and Island promises to be a thought-provoking installation that I am confident will spark debate.“
Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion, British Council
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