Several recurring qualities and topics were explored at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, answering curator Hashim Sarkis' question of "How Will We Live Together". Sarkis called upon architects “to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together”, spaces that are unbound by spatial or social contracts, and are flexible enough to welcome individuals and make them find a sense of belonging in an entirely different habitat. Unlike decades ago, migration today is no longer considered as relocating from rural areas to cities, where people needed to be in proximity to their workplaces. Technological advancements, new work modules, and most notably the pandemic altered the way people perceive spaces, making it possible to complete at least 85% of day-to-day responsibilities from practically anywhere in the world. What we have learned from previous cases, and what we are observing now, is that the built environment needs to be flexible.
Every generation finds itself more open to the notion of migration, whether it is for economic, social, environmental, academic, or political reasons. Perhaps it is the reliance on technology, the change in social and cultural mindsets, the belief that comfort comes first, or the flexibility in today's architecture, but individuals have found comfort in being nomads "away from home". International curators at the Biennale explored migration and its many manifestations, evolution, and its impact on the future of cities and built environments, answering questions such as what will become of cities? Will rural areas become the new cities? How has life changed for the ones who stayed and those who left? And How do we design our cities to enhance the quality of life in an ever-changing social architecture?
Curated by architect Mounir Ayoub and Vanessa Lacaille from Laboratoire d’architecture, as well as filmmaker Fabrice Aragno and artist sculptor Pierre Szczepanski, the Swiss pavilion explores the spatial and political impacts of the country’s borders. Bordered by 5 countries, foreigners account for 25.1% of the Swiss population with Italian, German, Portuguese and French nationals accounting for 72% of them. Throughout the pandemic, the general perception and the relationship with national borders witnessed a dramatic change, giving the project a new collective experience. The study is conducted through a series of participative processes performed along the Swiss border that investigate the frontier and its inhabitants, creating a framework around the individual relationship with the territory.
Curated by architects Irina Meliță and Ștefan Simion, the Romanian pavilion explores the challenges and opportunities of migration and its consequences on the built environment. The curators used Romania as a study case, since almost three million citizens have migrated in the last decade to pursue a better life abroad. This depopulation has caused a decline in the country's urban life and a change in its built environment. The pavilion is split into two sections that display two opposing narratives: the stories of the Romanian immigrants and their lives in foreign countries, and the collective experience and impact of mass migration on Romanian cities.
Curated by PROLOG +1 along with an international group of architects and artists, the Polish pavilion explores the countryside and how rural areas are an important element of building sustainable human environments, given the crises the world is surrounded with today. Working and living in the countryside have become nation-wide critical topics of discussion, and in the case of Poland, more observations and proposals can be implemented since 93% of its land is purely rural. The pavilion tells the story of the future of communal life in the countryside, reflecting on progressive migration from cities to these rural areas, and proposes solutions on a global scale. The curators presented new tools to describe the countryside, focusing on three historical development periods that highly influenced the country; early capitalist, socialist, and late-capitalist. All three periods were evaluated in terms of territory, settlement, and dwelling, emphasizing on colonization projects previously built by the Polish state.
Curated by Isadora Hastings, Natalia de La Rosa, Mauricio Rocha, and Elena Tudela, the Mexican pavilion proposes solutions on how architecture can help with cultural, linguistic, and territorial diversities. Adverse conditions such as inequalities, environmental deterioration, risk of disasters, and various types of violence (economic, social, racial, and gender) linked to structural spaces were the starting point of the pavilion's creative process. Although diverse, but these problematics transcend beyond borders and target different geographies and territories equally. The installation explores various ways of designing and building spaces that promote belonging, exchange, resistance, and recovery derived from displacements. The architectural design of the pavilion translates the scarcity that characterizes the local and global reality and allows visitors to experience and explore the role of displacement in architecture.
Curated by Jiří Tintěra, Garri Raagmaa, Kalle Vellevoog, Martin Pedanik, and Paulina Pähn, the Estonian pavilion explores how urban spaces can enhance the future development of small towns that are at risk of depopulation. The phenomenon of shrinking cities is widespread throughout Europe, which has resulted in fundamental changes during the post-socialist Eastern Europe transition. In fact, 45 in 47 Estonian towns have already lost a significant percentage of their population since 2000, migrating to bigger, more established cities. Through a digital display, the pavilion looked at the low quality of residential spaces, and presented solutions that can renew the identity of shrinking cities, such as building demolitions and restorations, active housing policies, and urban space revitalization.
Curated by Christophe Hutin, the French pavilion presented a visually-immersive experience of how different communities from around the world can transform living spaces. The pavilion explores five specific case studies in Europe, Asia, America, and Africa, showcasing how they alter their own living spaces without following any formal schemes predefined by architects. According to the curator, this particular approach highlights the implications architecture is causing to the constantly-changing contemporary world, and develops a new kind of architecture, one that actively involves the inhabitants.
The Greek Pavilion, curated by Nikos Kalogirou, Themistoklis Chatzigiannopoulos, Maria Dousi, Dimitrios Kontaxakis, Sofoklis Kotsopoulos, and Dimitrios Thomopoulos, took the city of Thessaloniki as its case study to highlight the cultural coexistence between locals and refugees. The curatorial team found it to be a "typical example of a radical redesign of a multicultural city is the reconstruction of modern Thessaloniki, exactly a century ago". The pavilion displays a mosaic of different architectural styles and human activities, highlighting the design features that have reshaped and are continuing to reshape the prevailing financial, social, and political context of unique public spaces.
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.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Migration. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.