How will we live together? That’s the question driving the 17th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, which opened to the public on 22 May and will run until 21 November 2021. These nine pavilions rise to that query in innovative, forward-looking ways.

Photo: DSL Studio

NORDIC PAVILION: WHAT WE SHARE

Helen & Hard for the Nasjonalmuseet

Norwegian architecture practice Helen & Hard worked in close collaboration with a group of residents of its 2018 residential project Vindmøllebakken to envision a solid timber co-housing unit. Balancing public and private spaces, the full-scale section has been realized within the Nordic Pavilion in partnership with Swiss engineer Hermann Blumer. What We Share poses the question: ‘Which functions or social situations could inhabitants move out of their apartments and share with other residents?’. Responding to the need for new sustainable models of communal living, the building is aimed at encouraging increasingly adaptable architecture influenced equally by residents and involved agencies.

Photo: Cristiano Corte

DUTCH PAVILION: WHO IS WE?

Francien van Westrenen, Afaina de Jong and Debra Solomon for Het Nieuwe Instituut

An ‘empathetic plea against homogeneity and monoculture’ in the words of curator and Het Nieuwe Instituut Head of Agency Francien van Westrenen, Who is We? advocates for architects and designers to better embrace the symbiotic relationship between people, nature and animals. Architect Afaina de Jong’s contributions Multiplicity of Other and Space of Other explore the way ‘othered’ groups are factored into spatial planning; Space of Other offers a performative space for public dialogue through music, dance and poetry. Artist Debra Solomon brings forth research tools for ‘just inter-species urban development driven by care and climate crisis mitigation’ with Multispecies Urbanism.

BRITISH PAVILION: THE GARDEN OF PRIVATISED DELIGHTS

Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler for the British Council

Seven privatized public spaces transformed into immersive, inclusive experiences comprise The Garden of Privatised Delights. The installation presents public spaces conventional in the country – the high street, pub and youth centre – juxtaposed with an inaccessible private garden square. Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, these simulated environments are overlaid with proposals for reinvention. Curators Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler seek to prompt new thought about privately owned public space in cities across the UK and challenge the polarization between such private and public entities. 

Photo: Gerda Studio

REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN PAVILION: MAHALLA: RURAL URBAN LIVING

Christ & Gantenbein for the Art and Culture Development Foundation under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Mahalla: Urban Rural Living is the Republic of Uzebekistan’s very first presence at the Venice Biennale. ETH Zurich professors of architecture and design and Christ & Gantenbein founding partners Emanuel Christ and Christoph Gantenbein were tapped to curate and conduct research for the pavilion, which draws upon the nation’s traditional mahalla housing, places where the state and society have historically come together to meet at the local level. A meeting of scientific and artistic expression, the pavilion exhibits a model of a mahalla complemented by ambisonic sound design recorded by Spanish filmmaker Carlos Casas, and photographs by Dutch photographer Bas Princen

Photo: Marco Cappelleti

RUSSIAN FEDERATION PAVILION: OPEN

Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli (2050.plus), SmartArt and KASA Architects for the V-A-C Foundation

This year, the Russian Federation Pavilion boasts a renovated site: the 1914 Alexey Shchusev-designed building has been revitalized by KASA Architects in tandem with 2050.plus and Smart Art. The exhibition builds upon the virtual platform Open? that the curators formed in response to the postponement of last year’s biennale. Asking how cultural institutions can be reorganized through a more diverse variety of perspectives, the experience includes a movie programme, digital takeovers, a book and a gamer station complete with three Russian video games. Access to Open will reach beyond Venice with a digital pavilion

Photo: Alberto Strada

JAPAN PAVILION: CO-OWNERSHIP OF ACTION: TRAJECTORIES OF ELEMENTS

Jo Nagasaka, Ryoko Iwase, Toshikatsu Kiuchi, Taichi Sunayama, Daisuke Motoki, Rikako Nagashima and Kozo Kadowaki for The Japan Foundation

Co-ownership of Action: Trajectories of Elements repurposes a 65-year-old wooden house that had reached the end of its lifecycle in Japan. Dismantled and sent overseas, the former residence takes on a new life as benches, screens, signage and more in the Japan pavilion. Local craftsmen in Venice joined forces with the architects in Japan online for the process, reflecting how old materials can be collaboratively turned into new architecture. After the biennale, the exhibition structures will once again be upcycled for an event in Oslo.

Photo: Hampus Berndtson

DANISH PAVILION: CON-NECT-ED-NESS

Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter and Marianne Krogh for the Danish Architecture Center

Water is at the core of Con-nect-ed-ness, a space designed to sensorially emphasize the continuity of the element in our lives. Visitors witness the journey of water from outdoor collection tanks, through the rooms, to their own cup of tea – all against the backdrop of simple, raw structures. ‘As architects, we try to provide answers to how people can live together,’ Lene Tranberg, co-founding partner and architect at Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter. ‘We work on the precondition that architecture always stands in relation to nature. In the pavilion, we have sought to make a cyclic system visible, which helps us begin to understand ourselves as part of something bigger.’

Photo: Andrea Avezzù

ARGENTINA PAVILION: THE INFINITE HOUSE

Gerardo Caballero, Paola Gallino, Sebastian Flosi, Franco Brachetta, Ana Babaya, Leonardo Rota, Emmanuel Leggeri, Sofia Rothman, Gerardo Bordi, Edgardo Torres and Alessandro De Paoli 

Architect and curator Gerardo Caballero looked to quintessential Argentine homes for The Infinite House, the undefined layout of which mimics public housing complexes in the South American country; its rosy colour emulates the traditional oxblood-and-lime concrete mixture used for building there. Multiple paths can be taken to a series of residences, a seemingly inescapable environment that symbolizes the interconnected world we all live in. The Infinite House is targeted at pushing ‘the limits of the domestic, and to highlight the importance of the collective rather than the individual by illustrating that a home extends beyond one's own living space,’ say the makers.

Photo: Gerda Studio

SINGAPORE PAVILION: TO GATHER: THE ARCHITECTURE OF RELATIONSHIPS

National University of Singapore for the Urban Redevelopment Authority and DesignSingapore Council

Spanning 16 installations, To Gather: The Architecture of Relationships investigates how local residents, citizens and communities share spaces in Singapore. The exhibition examines city-focused projects such as the noted speculative work Rewilding the Sky, which imagines a nature reserve atop every building, Habitcat, an observation of how street cats inhabit man-made spaces and urban landscapes, and Singapore’s first green community for senior citizens, Kampung Admiralty. Four themes – Communing Relationships, Framing Relationships, Uncovering Relationships, and Imagining Relationships – narrate the presentation.