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Best of the National Pavilions: Recurring Qualities Explored at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale

Best of the National Pavilions: Recurring Qualities Explored at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale

Responding to “How will we live together” in 115 different ways, the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale welcomed, physically, the large public, on May 22nd, 2021. Opening up furthermore to the world, the timeless yet context-sensitive theme engendered a collective imaginary, highlighting a world that would rather come together than stay apart. Building an architectural narrative of the present that reflects on a resilient future, the interrogation, first asked in 2019, gained more relevance with the pandemic that paused the world for a while. With a lot of optimism and love for the craft, the architectural exhibition opened its doors to a longing public and revealed recurring qualities in the showcased interventions.

Argentina: La casa infinita by Gerardo Caballero. Image © Laurian GhinitoiuGermany: 2038. The New Serenity by 2038. Image © Laurian GhinitoiuMexico: Desplazamientos / Displacements by Isadora Hastings, Mauricio Rocha, Elena Tudela. Image © Laurian GhinitoiuSpain: Uncertainty by Domingo Jacobo González Galván, Sofía Piñero Rivero, Andrzej Gwizdala, Fernando Herrera Pérez. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu+ 19

Considering that “the pandemic will come and go, but issues like climate change, mass migration, inequalities, etc. will not disappear if not tackled”, Hashim Sarkis, the curator of the 17th edition of La Biennale Architettura 2021 explains the need for new spatial contracts today, in order to reach a better tomorrow. Exploring new means to convey the architectural experience, national pavilions, invited architects and collateral events took the challenge and introduced innovative projects, overlapping scales, and fields. Uncovering similar approaches, Sarkis in his opening speech, noticed that these recurring ideas can be divided into 3 main categories: the first investigates horizontality and similar levels, the second tackles the in-between and our nomadic existence and the third is more related to framing.

Read on for a first look at the national pavilions of the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, with an exclusive photo series by Laurian Ghinitoiu.


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Natural Elements and New Materials

United Arab Emirates: Wetland by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
United Arab Emirates: Wetland by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

The usage of natural elements and the exploration of new materials that stem from the surrounding fauna and flora as well as vernacular practices, triggered by environmental challenges, underline a “return to nature” phenomenon. In fact, the UAE pavilion “Wetland” generated an alternative for cement, creating a large-scale prototype structure by exploring sea salt as a traditional, locally-sourced building material; whereas the Danish pavilion “Con-nect-ed-ness”, focused on the element of water and created a water cyclic system that connects people with each other and with nature, underlining that “the world is one cyclic system which we all create together”.

Denmark: con-nect-ed-ness by Marianne Krogh and Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Denmark: con-nect-ed-ness by Marianne Krogh and Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Wood was also very central at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale. On the issue of housing, Helen&Hard introduced an experimental response to the co-housing problem with a wooden structure that took center stage at the Nordic Pavilion; and Luxembourg explored alternative modes of living amid the housing crisis, generating a residential prototype that challenges the understanding of the relationships established between architecture and land. The U.S pavilion, on the other hand, tackled wood-framing construction in American Architecture, creating a huge structure at the entrance of the neoclassical pavilion by Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner.

Nordic Countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland): What we share. A model for cohousing by Martin Braathen and Helen & Hard. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Nordic Countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland): What we share. A model for cohousing by Martin Braathen and Helen & Hard. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
United States of America: American Framing by Paul Andersen, Paul Preissner. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
United States of America: American Framing by Paul Andersen, Paul Preissner. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: Homes for Luxembourg by LUCA Luxemburg Center for Architecure (Andrea Rumpf). Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: Homes for Luxembourg by LUCA Luxemburg Center for Architecure (Andrea Rumpf). Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Across Boundaries

Chile: Testimonial spaces by Emilio Marín, Rodrigo Sepúlveda. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Chile: Testimonial spaces by Emilio Marín, Rodrigo Sepúlveda. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Many of the interventions focused on specific contextual issues, generating particular background-based projects that nevertheless resonate with the entire world. The National Pavilion of Chile, through “Testimonial Spaces” by Emilio Marín and Rodrigo Sepúlveda, presented very powerful paintings that illustrate raw stories from one of Santiago’s emblematic neighborhoods. Moreover, Romania’s contribution to the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, Fading Borders, showcased a new perspective on mass migration, exploring its consequences on the built environment, by using Romania as a study case. The “Infinite house” by Gerardo Caballero, representing Argentina, is inspired by traditional Argentine houses, and reflects on the role collective housing, has played in the country's history and society. The intervention actually highlights the importance of the collective rather than the individual by showcasing a home that extends beyond one's own living space: "it is the city, the country, and even the world."

Romania: Fading Borders by Irina Meliță, Ștefan Simion. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Romania: Fading Borders by Irina Meliță, Ștefan Simion. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Additionally, the Mexican pavilion raises the question of "displacements", which arise mainly from adverse conditions such as evident inequalities, environmental deterioration, risk of disasters, and various types of violence, occurring at different scales of time and space that transcend borders and limits. Finally, the Serbian contribution explores the connection between a city's economy and its urban structure, by using the mining town of Bor, located in eastern Serbia, as a study case for how economic activities have not only shaped the urban environment but the forms of collectivity connected to it.

Serbia: 8th Kilometer by Moderni u Beogradu. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Serbia: 8th Kilometer by Moderni u Beogradu. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Argentina: La casa infinita by Gerardo Caballero. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Argentina: La casa infinita by Gerardo Caballero. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Mexico: Desplazamientos / Displacements by Isadora Hastings, Mauricio Rocha, Elena Tudela. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Mexico: Desplazamientos / Displacements by Isadora Hastings, Mauricio Rocha, Elena Tudela. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Engaging Communities

France: Communities at work / Les communautés à l’œuvre by Christophe Hutin. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
France: Communities at work / Les communautés à l’œuvre by Christophe Hutin. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Putting the people at the center of the process, from professionals to the local residents, a majority of the projects at the 2021 Venice Biennale based their approach on engaging the community that surrounds them. In fact, Christophe Hutin for France’s national pavilion, created an immersive experience to introduce to the large public, “Communities at Work”, in Europe, Asia, America, and Africa, presenting a journey into a world where individuals transform their own living spaces, without following any formal schemes designed by an architect. Spain, on the other hand, engaged students and professionals in its pavilion, creating a catalog of architectural strategies that have been transformed to meet the future needs of housing. With “uncertainty being the only certainty”, the exhibition curated by Domingo J. González, Sofía Piñero, Andrzej Gwizdala, and Fernando Herrera, has almost 40 participants. In addition, the Italian Pavilion, tackling "Resilient Communities", also presented a vast variety of research and innovation across many fields, exploring ideas for improving the conditions of the built environment and addressing climate change.

Italy: Comunità Resilienti - Resilient Communities by Alessandro Melis. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Italy: Comunità Resilienti - Resilient Communities by Alessandro Melis. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Spain: Uncertainty by Domingo Jacobo González Galván, Sofía Piñero Rivero, Andrzej Gwizdala, Fernando Herrera Pérez. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Spain: Uncertainty by Domingo Jacobo González Galván, Sofía Piñero Rivero, Andrzej Gwizdala, Fernando Herrera Pérez. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Democratization of the Digital Realm 

Russia: Open! by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Russia: Open! by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Another very pronounced element in this year’s biennale is the digital aspect. Some pavilions embraced the virtual world as an addition, while others went to the extreme and only “existed” virtually like the Australian pavilion. Germany, for this year, introduced a visually-emptied pavilion with only QR codes on the walls that redirect the visitors to videos. In fact, the German pavilion, “2038”, seeking to provide answers, imagines the world in the era of “New Serenity”, and tells the “story of a world in which everything has just about gone well”, an alternative future. Russia, on the other hand, opened up physically its pavilion and refurbished the 1914 building, by Russian/Japanese architecture studio KASA, while, at the same time, turning into the online world, and extending the pavilion program beyond the timeframe of the Biennale. The online project started in 2020, will continue throughout the subsequent editions of the biennial as a digital pavilion.

Germany: 2038. The New Serenity by 2038. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Germany: 2038. The New Serenity by 2038. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

We invite you to check out ArchDaily's comprehensive coverage of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021, and watch our official playlist on Youtube featuring exclusive interviews with architects and curators of the Biennale.

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Cite: Christele Harrouk. "Best of the National Pavilions: Recurring Qualities Explored at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale" 13 Jun 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/962365/recurring-qualities-explored-at-the-2021-venice-architecture-biennale-a-visual-essay-of-national-pavilions> ISSN 0719-8884
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: Homes for Luxembourg by LUCA Luxemburg Center for Architecure (Andrea Rumpf). Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

各个国家的设计主题,2021年威尼斯建筑双年展

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