STIRring Together: Best of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021

STIR brings you a series of articles that chronicles the best of digital and physical exhibitions at this year’s edition of the Biennale Architettura 2021.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Apr 22, 2021

The Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 is set to open its doors to the public on 22 May. Curated by Hashim Sarkis this year's theme is How will we live together? Spaces are an extension of the human body. We are constantly trying to find ways to personalise the space we use, from our homes to our workspaces. It is the constant attempt to rationalise the relationship between the human experience and the spatial experience that often leads to creative and unique design solutions. But what happens when we have to share our space? And more importantly, how has our understanding of space changed over the last year because of the pandemic and global lockdowns. Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 is a response to the various scales of togetherness that we experience as a collective.

On April 12, in a globally streamed press conference, Roberto Cicutto, President of La Biennale di Venezia, reminded the audience saying, “Do not think that downtimes are useless, downtime can be very important in understanding what we had to do, what we will have to do and what is the objective of our actions”.  Converging the many creative conversations, wondrous works and explorations that have occurred during this downtime and testing times, and talking to the forces behind these powerful creations, we bring you STIRring Together: a STIR series that journeys along with the event together with Venice and the world.

Hashim Sarkis, the curator of Biennale Architettura 2021, outlines an expanded programme that would supplement the physical installations. Sarkis also mentions how this year’s theme has extra significance. “It has transformed the biennale from an event into an experiment, a process, and an open discussion and a true collaboration in the spirit of the theme. The expanded and inclusive platform would not have been possible had we not lost this past year,” he says.  

Tracing these adaptations and following the multitude of perspectives, the STIRring Together series carefully curates some incredible projects and exhibits, highlighting the diversity and many discourses of the architecture biennale. These will be seen through the lens of the five scales identified by Sarkis. The collective is explored through the dimensions of living together: Among Diverse Beings, As New Households, As Emerging Communities, Across Borders, and As One Planet.

Curated as a series of thoughtful engagements that enhance the contemporary debate and discussion on architecture, STIRing Together introduces you to the many facets of the Venice Architecture Biennale, which brings together over 46 countries and 114 participants from diverse disciplines. With a robust creator lineup with names such as former Biennale curator Alejandro Aravena, and Superflux (London) and a multi-scaled dialogue, ranging from climate change to growing political polarisation, and vast global inequalities, the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 promises to turn the focus from uncertainty to optimism.

Over a multi-part series of articles spanning the course of the programme, STIR will bring together inspiring ideas from the International Exhibition, the National Pavilions, Co-habitates and Collateral Events to highlight the most poignant and stirring conversations.

1. STIRring Together: What to expect at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021

Central Pavilion Giardini | Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | STIRRING Together | STIRworld
Central Pavilion Giardini Image: Francesco Galli, Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

With a robust participatory outline and multi-scaled dialogue, the Biennale Architettura 2021, curated by Hashim Sarkis, promises to turn the focus from uncertainty to optimism. This year, there are 62 National Pavilions while the International Exhibition, which consists of installations created by 112 participants from 46 countries.

2. STIRring Together: Venice Architecture Biennale awards Special Golden Lion

Lina Bo Bardi at the SESC Pompeia auditorium (L), Casa de Vidro (R)| The Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, in memoriam, Biennale Architettura 2021 | Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | STIRRING Together | STIRworld
Lina Bo Bardi at the SESC Pompeia auditorium (L), Casa de Vidro (R) Image: Bob Wolfenson(L), Leonardo Finotti(R), Courtesy of Instituto Bardi/ Casa de Vidro

Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi was recently awarded the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021. Recommended for the award by Hashim Sarkis, Bo Bardi was acknowledged for her role as a designer, scenographer, artist and critic.

3. STIRring Together: 'Refuge for Resurgence' offers glimpse into a new way of living

Refuge for Resurgence at Biennale Architettura 2021 - Trailer | Refuge for Resurgence by Superflux | STIRworld
Superflux Co-founders Anab Jain and Jon ArdernImage: Courtesy of Superflux

Superflux's interpretation to the 2021 thematic goes beyond a human centric response. Answering the question ‘how will we live together as new households?’, the London-based collective, founded by Anab Jain and Jon Ardern, explores the poetics of the idea of a home and folklore through their installation Refuge for Resurgence.

4. STIRring Together: David Theodore and Thomas Balaban on 'Impostor Cities'

A stimulating conversation between STIR team and Prof. David Theodore and Thomas Balaban, the curator and exhibitor of the Canada pavilion, at the VAB, Impostor Cities | Impostor Cities | David Theodore, Thomas Balaban | STIRworld
A stimulating conversation between STIR team and Prof. David Theodore and Thomas Balaban, the curator and exhibitor of the Canada pavilion, at the VAB, Impostor Cities Image: Courtesy of Impostor Cities for David Theodore and Thomas Balaban

STIR interacts with the curator and exhibitor of Canada’s official representation at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021, Prof. David Theodore and Thomas Balaban on Canadian cities doubling up as elsewhere in films.

5. Stirring together: ‘Three British Mosques’ looks at the history of mosques in Britain

Ella Kilgallon, Christopher Turner and Shahed Saleem | Three British Mosques | Pavilion of Applied Arts | V&A Museum | STIRworld
The three curators: Ella Kilgallon, Christopher Turner and Shahed Saleem Image: Courtesy of V&A Museum, Pavilion of Applied Arts

For the fifth consecutive year, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is collaborating with La Biennale di Venezia to present Three British Mosques at the Applied Arts Pavilion Special Project. In a candid conversation with Shahed Saleem, architect and author, Christopher Turner, Head of Design, Architecture and Digital Collections at the V&A, and Ella Kilgallon, Assistant Curator, Designs at the V&A we discuss the many layers of their curatorial engagement and the typology of the British Mosque.

6. STIRring Together: Decrypting connectedness at the Denmark Pavilion

STIRring together with Marianne Krogh, Lene Tranberg, Erik Frandsen | Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | Danish Pavilion | Marianne Krogh, Lene Tranberg, Erik Frandsen| STIRworld
STIRring together with Marianne Krogh, Lene Tranberg, Erik Frandsen Image: Courtesy of STIR

STIR speaks with the curator and architects behind the Danish Pavilion installation, titled ‘Connectedness’, at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021. In an exclusive conversation with curator Marianne Krogh, and architects Lene Tranberg and Erik Frandsen, STIR engages in a thought-provoking discourse about the cyclical nature of our habitat through their site-specific installation that creates a sensory space focused on water as a phenomenon.

7. STIRring Together: Lina Ghotmeh on architecture as a tool of resilience

STIRring Together with Lina Ghotmeh, a conversation with Ghotmeh on her architecture and her structure of resilience in Beirut, the Stone Garden Housing | Stone Garden Housing | Lina Ghotmeh - Architecture | STIRworld
STIRring Together with Lina Ghotmeh, a conversation with Ghotmeh on her architecture and her structure of resilience in Beirut, the Stone Garden Housing Image: (L to R) © Iwan Baan, Courtesy of Lina Ghotmeh – Architecture, © Hannah Assouline

Titled Stone Garden: Resilient Living, An Archaeology of the Future, Lina Ghotmeh – Architecture’s infallible architectural beacon from Beirut, the Stone Garden Housing, comes to the Arsenale in Venice as a 1:30 scale physical model of the structure, comprising curated photographic prints in miniature form, material samples, and video montage of the building coexisting with its context. The recently completed structure became almost an urban legend after it survived the unfortunate explosion on August 4 from the city’s port, located within a mile of the structure. 

STIR indulges in an exclusive, earnest conversation with Lina Ghotmeh on her architecture, the manifestation of “togetherness” in Stone Housing, her ties with Beirut, and the project’s journey to Venice.

8. STIRring Together: Reimagining the life-cycle of home at the Japan Pavilion

STIR speaks with Kozo Kadowaki, the curator of the Japanese Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale, about the importance of adapting vacant structures in creative and innovative ways | Venice Architecture Biennale 2021| Kozo Kadowaki | STIRworld
STIR speaks with Kozo Kadowaki, the curator of the Japan Pavilion Image: Courtesy of the Japan Foundation, Shinto Takeshi

STIR speaks with curator Kozo Kadowaki about the importance of adapting vacant structures in creative and innovative ways. When talking about the value of keeping the idea of keeping these homes alive in different forms, Kadowaki summarizes the pavilion's intention with this compelling and poetic quote, “This house has been renovated many times by many people. We are just the last in a series of these events. But this series of events is shared by many people. So we felt that it would be unacceptable for us to end this series of events."

9. STIRring Together: Osborne Macharia and Kabage Karanja on KEJA and home in a 'void'

STIR interacts with Osborne Macharia and Kabage Karanja on KEJA and Obsidian Rain, the third exhibit in the Anthropocene Museum project | KEJA and Obsidian Rain | Osborne Macharia, Kabage Karanja | STIRworld
STIR interacts with Osborne Macharia and Kabage Karanja on KEJA and Obsidian Rain, the third exhibit in the Anthropocene Museum project Image: Video: Courtesy of STIR, Osborne’s image: Raphael Mumbo, Kabage’s image: courtesy of Cave_Bureau

STIR engages in an exclusive discourse with visual artist Osborne Macharia and architect Kabage Karanja on KEJA, their interpretative spatial intervention as a manifestation of the aspirations of the young African millennial, and Obsidian Rain, the third exhibit in the Anthropocene Museum project, as a way of reinventing the primeval cave into a communal space, using sophisticated technology to bridge the wide temporal gap.

10. STIRring Together: Achim Menges and Jan Knippers on material culture

Achim Menges and Jan Knippers in front of the Maison Fibre at the Venice Architecture Biennale | Maison Fibre |Achim Menges | Jan Knippers | STIRworld
Achim Menges and Jan Knippers in front of the Maison Fibre at the Venice Architecture Biennale Image: © ICD/ITKE/IntCDC University of Stuttgart

With a particular interest in questioning the building models of the 20th century that continue to be prominent as both typologies and methodologies. This is translated into a tactile experience that explores materiality and spatiality. In a joint interview Achim Menges, Professor at ICD University of Stuttgart, and Jan Knippers, Professor at ITKE University of Stuttgart, elaborated on the ecological and technological impact of their installation. Maison Fibre is the central display of their project on “Material Culture''.

11. STIRring Together: Catalog for the Post-Human by Parsons & Charlesworth

Catalog for the Post-Human by Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth is a satirical installation that delves into the future of work and human enhancement | Catalog for the Post-Human | Parsons & Charlesworth | STIRworld
Catalog for the Post-Human by Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth is a satirical installation that delves into the future of work and human enhancement Image: Courtesy of Parsons & Charlesworth

Showcasing a new kind of “augmented reality”, designers Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth interact with STIR on their display at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, called the Catalog for the Post-Human, a set of practical augments that carefully take into account our current behaviours, and adorn our not-so-implausible future with impeccably carved and pleasantly coloured products. The designer duo's intervention flips curator Hashim Sarkis' curatorial question on its head to ask: "How will we live together if we are forced to augment ourselves to stay competitive?

12. STIRring Together: Julijonas Urbonas and Jan Boelen on Lithuania’s ‘Planet of People’

(L to R) The LSA identity design typeface based on the human skeleton; the founder of Lithuanian Space Agency (LSA) and exhibitor for Planet of People, Julijonas Urbonas; and curator of the Lithuania Pavilion, Jan Boelen | STIRworld
(L to R) The LSA identity design typeface based on the human skeleton; the founder of Lithuanian Space Agency (LSA) and exhibitor for Planet of People, Julijonas Urbonas; and curator of the Lithuania Pavilion, Jan Boelen Image: (L to R) © Julijonas Urbonas and Studio Pointer*, courtesy of Lithuanian Space Agency. Julijonas Urbonas’ photo by Emilija Filipenkovaitė. Jan Boelen’s photo, courtesy of Lithuanian Space Agency

Presented by the fictional Lithuanian Space Agency, Planet of People at the Lithuania Pavilion is a deep-space simulation merging gravitational aesthetics and cosmic imagination to envision the cosmos as a site for an ethereal, nebular other-world. Using its fictional narrative, the installation 3D scans participants at the Biennale, 'sending' them into space as animated simulations. Aptly, as more and more people participate, the commune grows into a planet. Equal parts engaging and equal parts mentally stimulating, read STIR's conversation with the pavilion's exhibitor Julijonas Urbonas and curator Jan Boelen on the genesis of their Planet of People, and what sustains the idea in the ‘space-age’.

13. STIRring Together: Philip Beesley and Sascha Hastings on the geometries of being

Grove Curator and Editor, Sascha Hastings (Right top), and Canadian artist and designer, Philip Beesley | Philip Beesley | STIRworld | Venice Architecture Biennale
Grove Curator and Editor, Sascha Hastings (Right top), and Canadian artist and designer, Philip Beesley Image: Courtesy of Living Architecture Systems Group

Grove, by Canadian artist and designer, Philip Beesley, and the Living Architecture Systems Group, is a delicate, luminous, lace-like cloud that hovers within the volume of the Arsenale at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The installation is conceptualised as a mixed-media forest-like gathering space that expands on ideas Beesley previously explored in Meander, a large scale-built project located in Cambridge, Canada.

14. STIRring Together: Privatised Delights with Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler

Manijeh Verghese & Madeleine Kessler, curators of British Pavilion 2021. Detail from The Garden of Privatised Delights | British Pavilion | Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | Manijeh Verghese | Madeleine Kessler | Unscene Architecture| STIRworld
Manijeh Verghese & Madeleine Kessler, curators of British Pavilion 2021. Detail from The Garden of Privatised Delights Image: Cristiano Corte © British Council

The Garden of Privatised Delights curated by Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler, brings an inherently urban situation to the island of Venice. It is especially interesting when one considers that the Biennale takes place in one of the only gardens on the Italian island. While there are numerous plazas and public squares in Venice, the largest green space is the Giardini. Entering this national pavilion is an experience of entering an indoor garden from a garden.

15. STIRring Together: Probing the Architecture of Relationships at the Singapore Pavilion

STIR interacts with Prof. Dr. Puay-peng Ho, curator of the SIngapore Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale on the architecture of relationships | to-gather: The Architecture of Relationships | Puay-peng Ho | STIRworld
STIR interacts with Prof. Dr. Puay-peng Ho, curator of the SIngapore Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale on the architecture of relationships Image: Courtesy of STIR, Puay-peng Ho’s image: DesignSingapore Council (Dsg)

At Singapore's seventh showcase at the Venice Architecture Biennale, STIR partakes in an exclusive dialogue with Prof. Dr. Puay-peng Ho, curator of the Singapore Pavilion, To-gather: The Architecture of Relationships, to probe the intangible emotion underlying Singapore's exemplary urban architecture, and the feeling of "togetherness" it tries to evoke. By putting together ordinary stories with extraordinary spirits from Singapore’s urban core together through 16 distinct projects, the exhibition attempts to explore the unique local spatial typologies that have emerged from Singapore’s high-density neighbourhoods and housing, and their established styles of gathering and living.

16. STIRring Together in poetry of outrage: Beirut Shifting Grounds

Rana Haddad, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the American University of Beirut and Co-Founder of studio 200 Grs; Beyrouth, installation 1 acte/ 2 pieces, in Theatre De Beyrouth vitrine | Beirut Shifting Grounds | STIRworld
Rana Haddad, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the American University of Beirut and Co-Founder of studio 200 Grs; Beyrouth, installation 1 acte/ 2 pieces, in Theatre De Beyrouth vitrineImage: Rana Haddad and Pierre Hage-Boutros in collaboration with the Atelier de Recherche, ALBA, 2001

A series of striking short films from the streets of Beirut marking almost a year to the Lebanon port blasts, The Human Lens documents four parallel narratives of pain, outrage, and revolution through powerful poetry and experimental engagement. The installation is part of Beirut Shifting Grounds, a two-year research project featured in the Co-Habitats section at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021, presented by a team of select researchers, including Rana Haddad, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the American University of Beirut and Co-Founder of Lebanese studio 200 Grs. In a stimulating conversation with Haddad, STIR gauges an enquiry into what it took to nail an important message from her city’s blast-torn streets.

17. STIRring Together: Sebastian Behmann and Paola Antonelli on Future Assembly

Sebastian Behmann and Paola Antonelli on Future Assembly | Future Assembly | Venice Architecture Biennale | Studio Other Space | Sebastian Behmann | Paola Antonelli | STIRworld
Sebastian Behmann and Paola Antonelli on Future Assembly Image: David Fischer

In a conversation with Sebastian Behmann and Paola Antonelli, we explore the multi-layered conversation between the co-designer, the stakeholders and the more-than-human chart. Conceptualised as an exhibition within an exhibition, Future Assembly is a special presentation at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The concept developed after Studio Other Spaces was invited by Hashim Sarkis to respond to his curatorial inquiry, by looking at the United Nations as a multilateral institution. The idea grew from here with architect Sebastian Behmann and artist Olafur Eliasson, co-founders of Studio Other Spaces, and their six co-designers to frame a conversation and thesis for what constitutes the current paradigm for a multilateral assembly.  

18. STIRring Together: Günther Vogt on the rapid 'metamorphosis' of landscapes

Günther Vogt’s exhibitions at the VAB encompass transforming landscapes seen through three basal elements, stone, water, and vegetation | Rolling Stones, Migrating Landscapes, Common Water – The Alps | Günther Vogt | STIRworld
Günther Vogt’s exhibitions at the VAB encompass transforming landscapes seen through three basal elements, stone, water, and vegetation Image: Giuseppe Miccichè

STIR engages in an environmentally conscious conversation with Günther Vogt about his studio, VOGT Landscape Architecture, his Chair at ETH, Zurich, and their collaborative displays at the Venice Architecture Biennale: Rolling Stones, Migrating Landscapes, and Common Water – The Alps. The renowned Swiss landscape architect and designer, through his showcase, interestingly encapsulates the issue of rapid climate change within a very specific geography. While its context may be local to the European region, its findings and observations are global. Through the three exhibitions, the rapid transformation of our landscapes accelerated by the climate emergency is seen through the lens of three basal elements in landscape: stone, water, and vegetation. Operating at the intersection of pedagogy and interactive installation, VOGT poses important but allegorical questions on what this means for the coexistence of societies, and how will we live together.

19. STIRring Together: Rahul Mehrotra and Sourav Biswas on Becoming Urban

Rahul Mehrotra and Sourav Biswas bring a layered discourse on the state of urbanism to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021  | Venice Architecture Biennale | STIRworld
Rahul Mehrotra and Sourav Biswas bring a layered discourse on the state of urbanism to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 Image: Courtesy of STIR

Spearheaded by Rahul Mehrotra, Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, and Sourav Biswas, Urban and Landscape planner and a former Research Associate at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the co-habitat is titled Becoming Urban: Trajectories of Urbanization in India. The research is grounded in an investigation of a contemporary understanding of the Indian subcontinent's urban discourse and draws from a wealth of census data to establish appropriate terminologies and methodologies of analysis and study.

20. STIRring Together: Peering into the Hospital of the Future with OMA

Headed by Reinier de Graaf, partner at OMA, the installation ‘Hospital of the Future’ takes visitors through their rendition of a future hospital | Hospital of the Future | OMA | STIRworld
Headed by Reinier de Graaf, partner at OMA, the installation ‘Hospital of the Future’ takes visitors through their rendition of a future hospital Image: Courtesy of STIR, Installation image: DSL Studio, Courtesy of OMA

Pegged on their showcase at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, STIR engages in an inquisitive conversation with Hans Larsson and Alexandru Retegan of world-renowned architecture practice OMA to gauge the future of the hospital as an essential institution, and to glimpse into this potential future that their study on the trends in healthcare and hospital design points to. Through their eponymous film on display at the Biennale, OMA imagines the hospital of the future to be in a state of constant flux: akin to a theatre with a constantly transforming mise-en-scène, self-sufficient, fully automated, and a place you would never have to go to. “If it became automatic, could the hospital of the future be more human?”, sentiently probes an official release.

Five works at Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 led by ecologically sensible principles

BIT.BIO.BOT by ecoLogicStudio, The Listener by Giuseppe Penone, Obsidian Rain by Cave_Bureau, the Italian Pavilion, and Ego to Eco by EFFEKT at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021| Green Roundup | Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 | STIRworld
BIT.BIO.BOT by ecoLogicStudio, The Listener by Giuseppe Penone, Obsidian Rain by Cave_Bureau, the Italian Pavilion, and Ego to Eco by EFFEKT at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 Image: ©Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy of Vuslat Foundation @generouslistening, Courtesy of Cave_Bureau, Andrea Avezzù and Marco Zorzanello

In response to Hashim Sarkis’ powerful question, “How will we live together?”, and in light of the equally powerful, philosophical as well as solution-driven installations and pavilions sewn with a planet-friendly narrative urging one to listen to nature, STIR presents a holistic ‘green’ roundup of works on display at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021. Guided by ecologically sensitive principles, ranging from recreating earthy caves that were our original homes, to experimenting with algae to reduce carbon levels,  these works push the envelope of what encompasses thought-provoking ideas and exploratory practices united by an ethos of respecting and preserving the natural environment.

Read opinions of STIR contributors who had the opportunity to visit the Biennale

Celebrating the power of transformation at Venice Architecture Biennale 2021

American Framing, U.S. Pavilion, Giardini | Vladimir Belogolovsky | STIRworld
American Framing, U.S. Pavilion, Giardini Image: Francesca Kielb (R+A)

Vladimir Belogolovsky reports from Venice about the XVII Venice Architecture Biennale that opened after one year delay, questioning “How Will We Live Together?

Watch this space for more.

To learn more about the programs of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, visit www.labiennale.org/en/architecture/2021

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