Fresh flood of visitors in Venice

Tuesday 31 Aug 2010

12th International Architecture Exhibition opens under watchful gaze of first female director

Once again safe in the hands of an architect, this weekend saw the grand opening of Mostra Internazionale di Architettura – The 12th International Architecture Exhibition – directed by Kazuyo Sejima. Taking the defining role with aplomb, Sejima opened the festival as the first woman to direct the Architecture Sector of the Biennale. Recently awarded the Pritzker Prize (with Ryue Nishizawa) for ‘architecture that is simultaneously delicate and powerful, precise and fluid, ingenious but not overly or overtly clever’, the Japanese architect will be directing the festival over the coming months until its closure on 21st November.

Entitled People Meet in Architecture and organised by la Biennale di Venezia under the watchful gaze of president Paolo Baratta, The 12th International Architecture Exhibition will see architects and designers from across the globe coming together with the general public to celebrate a mutual passion for stunning architecture against the eternally elegant backdrop of the Venetian waterways.

43 active participants including architects, engineers and artists will be showcasing their finest work in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni della Biennale (Giardini) and in the Arsenale, whilst 56 national participations will be held in the historical Pavilions of the Giardini. In addition, two fresh initiatives will be on offer this year – Architecture Saturdays and Destination Biennale di Venezia. Universities meet in architecture.

The former is a weekly series of conversations and discussions with architects, critics and respected members of the architectural community, spanning the entire duration of the 12th Exhibition. The latter is a somewhat revolutionary programme where the Biennale forms partnerships with educational institutions, organising visits to the Exhibition accompanied by a specific training experience. The hope is to transform this visit into university credits, thereby constructing a new form of active accreditation for groups of at least 50 students. Running parallel with the 12th Exhibition will also be three online competitions - People Meet in Architecture in either photographic, essay or video format.

First time participants the Kingdom of Bahrain have been awarded the Golden Lion for the Best National Pavilion for their exhibit of three fishermen’s huts – lifted from the shores of Bahrain and renamed ‘Reclaim’ – curated by Noura Al-Sayeh and Fuad Al-Ansari.

Golden Lion for the best architect/artist has gone to Japanese architect Junya Ishigami for his piece ‘Architecture as Air: Study for Château la Coste’, which the jury explained: “pushes the limits of materiality, visibility, tectonics, thinness, and ultimately of architecture itself.” Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas graciously received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement – months after the official announcement was made – putting on a steely façade after the recent cancellation of his €300m project in The Hague.

Keep an eye on WAN’s projects and features over the next few months for regular hints as to what’s on offer in The Floating City. Visiting the 12th Exhibition? Send your photos to for consideration on WAN.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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