The UAE wins Golden Lion for best pavilion at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale

Pass the Salt

The UAE wins Golden Lion for best pavilion at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale

View of Wetland, the National Pavilion of the UAE at the 17th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale. (Andrea Avezzù/Courtesy Venice Architecture Biennale)

The United Arab Emirates has been awarded the Golden Lion for National Participation at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale for the Wael Al Awar- and Kenichi Teramoto-curated Wetland.

The winning pavilion, commissioned by the Abu Dhabi-based Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, explores the possibilities of natural salt as a viable alternative to traditional Portland cement in building construction. Central to its exploration, the Wetland team realized a large-scale prototype structure at the Arsenale with a recycled industrial waste brine-based building material known as MgO that, per the team, can “reduce the climate impact of the construction industry.” For the exhibition, the material was hand-cast “into organic shapes recalling the UAE’s traditional coral-built houses.” The resulting prototype was joined by an accompanying artistic soundscape and large-scale images of UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas (salt flats) created by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi. The sabkhas served as an inspiration for the research process.

The Anatomy of Sabkhas, an accompanying publication written by urban researchers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib and co-edited by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, contemplates the “ecological and socio-economic significance of these natural phenomena in detail based on case studies, personal essays, and photography” per a press release.

In their citation, the international jury of the 17th Architecture Biennale referred to Wetland as a “bold experiment which encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production at both the local and global scales, and opens to new construction possibilities between craft and high technology.”

In addition to Wetland, the jury, comprised of Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima in the role of president alongside Sandra Barclay (Peru), Lamia Joreige (Lebanon), Lesley Lokko (Ghana-Scotland), and Luca Molinari (Italy), also named the recipients of the exhibition’s other top awards. They are as follows:

National Participation, Special Mentions:

Russia for Open!
Commissioner: Teresa Iarocci Mavica
Curator: Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli
Exhibitors:KASA (Kovaleva and Sato Architects), Mikhail Maximov, Lion & Unicorn, Ilia Mazo, Yuliya Kozhemyako, Electric Red, Pavel Milyakov aka Buttechno, Vladmir Rannev
Venue: Giardini

The Philippines for Structures of Mutual Support
Commissioner: National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso, Chairman
Curators/Exhibitors: Framework Collaborative (GK Enchanted Farm Community, Architects Sudarshan Varsovia Khadka Jr. and Alexander Eriksson Furunes)

Golden Lion for best participant in the 17th Exhibition How will we live together? :

Raumlaborberlin (Berlin)
Instances of Urban Practice
Andrea Hofmann (Germany, 1969), Axel Timm (Germany, 1973), Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius (Germany, 1968), Christof Mayer (Germany, 1967), Florian Stirnemann (Swiss, 1976), Francesco Apuzzo (Italy, 1972), Frauke Gerstenberg (Germany, 1968), Jan Liesegang (Germany, 1968), and Markus Bader (Germany, 1968)
VenueCorderie of the Arsenale

Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the 17th Exhibition How will we live together?:

Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST) (Amsterdam, New York City)
Watermelons, Sardines, Crabs, Sands, and Sediments: Border Ecologies and the Gaza Strip
with contributions by Amir Qudaih (Palestine, 1993) and the Qudaih family (Palestine), Yael Berda (Israeli, 1976), Sandra Kassenaar (Dutch, 1982), and Malkit Shoshan (Israeli/ Dutch, 1976)
VenueCentral Pavilion, Giardini

One special mention to the following Participant:

Cave_bureau (Nairobi)
The Anthropocene Museum: Exhibit 3.0 Obsidian Rain
Kabage Karanja (Kenya, 1979) and Stella Mutegi (Kenya, 1979) in collaboration with Densu Moseti (Kenya, 1986)
Venue: Central Pavilion, Giardini

Italian-born Brazilian architect, author, and scenographer Lina Bo Bardi was named the recipient of the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam ahead of the opening of the Biennale.

The 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale concludes on November 21.