Tips Venice Architecture Biennale 2023

This year, the 18th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale will take place from 20 May to 26 November 2023. The overarching theme is The Laboratory of the Future, formulated and compiled by curator Lesley Lokko. The bienniale features a variety of projects that have received support from the Creative Industries Fund NL. We provide a list of the projects below.

the Laboratory of the Future
For the first time, the Venice Architecture Biennale’s spotlight is on Africa and the African diaspora. Of the 89 participants, more than half have this background. Central to all the projects on display is the power of imagination. According to curator Lokko, founder of the African Futures Institute in Ghana, it is impossible to build a better world if we cannot first imagine it. What do we want to say? How will what we say change anything? And, perhaps most importantly, how does what we say interact with what ‘others’ say? The exhibition constitutes not one story, but multiple narratives reflecting the kaleidoscope of ideas, contexts, aspirations and meanings, and responding to the issues of their time.

supported by the Fund
This year, work by Dutch designers supported by the Fund can be found at several locations. One of the main venues, Arsenale, features Killing Architects with Investigating Xinjiang’s detention camp network. Marina Otero can be found in the Spanish pavilion, and in the Italian pavilion the work of Giuditta Vendrame and Studio Ossidiana can be viewed.

Investigating Xinjiang’s detention camp network, Allison Killing

Allison Killing – Investigating Xinjiang’s detention camp network
This exhibition showcases the Pulitzer Prize-winning work of Killing Architects, revealing the network of detention camps in Xinjiang, China. At the same time, it is an exploration of how a diverse team of architects, journalists and software developers can work together to develop knowledge and insights like these. By presenting this to a wide professional and academic audience, Killing aims to help this group understand how similar interdisciplinary research projects can be initiated and carried out. The exhibition consists of three parts: a series of short videos exploring the research team’s methodology, two to three large-scale drawings of the camps made in collaboration with Jan Rothuizen, and six portraits of former detainees, along with short texts telling their stories. The exhibition can be seen at the Arsenale.

Biological Agent, Marina Otero

Marina Otero – Biological Agent (Agente Biológico)
The film Biological Agent by Marina Otero and filmmaker Manuel Correa will be presented in the Spanish pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023. The pavilion, entitled FOODSCAPES, comprises a total of five films describing food systems and showing the architecture and landscape architecture these systems produce. Based on this visual analysis, other models are explored for a future world that can feed everyone without ravaging the earth. Otero and Correa’s film analyzes the urbanism of agricultural production and the architectures and technologies that make it possible. In these productive landscapes, the exploitation of the soil meets issues such as the instrumentalization of human and non-human labour. Biological Agent focuses on the relationship between the architecture of the greenhouses and the repetitive movements of the workers. The film follows a group of humans, bumblebees, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ insects and plants working within a vast network of plastic greenhouses in southern Spain. In these hundreds of kilometres of greenhouses, which produce the food that keeps us alive, bodies are put at the service of the production chain. Each of them specializes in separate but interrelated actions. Otero has also been invited by Lesley Lokko to join the Biennale College as a tutor.

Sot Glas, Giuditta Vendrame

Giuditta Vendrame – Sot Glas
Giuditta Vendrame has been invited to participate in the Italian pavilion at the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale together with film director Ana Shametaj. The theme SPAZIALE (freely translated: everyone belongs to everyone else) is based on the vision of curator Fosbury Architecture. According to this view, architecture is a research practice that goes beyond the construction of buildings, and design is always the result of collective and collaborative work. ‘Space’ in this view is considered to be a physical and symbolic place, a geographical area and abstract dimension, and a system of known references and territory of possibilities. Vendrame is developing one of the nine site-specific interventions spread across Italy in response to urgent research themes that raise questions about contemporary issues. The content of the Sot Glas project focuses on the idea of multiculturalism in the specific border area between Italy and Slovenia, historically considered a crossroads of different cultures and languages of Italians, Germans and Slavs. This border region is a hot topic because of current geopolitical disruptions. The installation addresses the idea of a political border through folk songs, within which minority languages are interwoven. The presentation that follows the research is a sound-and-light installation in the 500-metre underground tunnels of ‘Kleine Berlin’, a bomb shelter in Trieste. A presentation of this will be exhibited in modified form at the Italian pavilion during the duration of the biennale.

The Soft Palace, Studio Ossidiana

Studio Ossidiana – The Soft Palace
Studio Ossidiana, a design and architecture firm based in Rotterdam, has also been invited by Fosbury Architecture to participate in the Italian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The Italian pavilion presents projects that extend beyond the duration of the architecture biennale, giving life to collective projects in different locations on the Italian peninsula where local communities are involved. A nomadic pavilion for the district of Librino (Sicily), The Soft Palace concerns a new type of public space: a nomadic tent carpet designed through a collective participatory process with local associations. The textile of the pavilion is decorated with drawings made by children from Librino. The aim of the project is to empower the neighbourhood by means of guidance to take ownership of the work, recognize it and want to live by it. According to Studio Ossidiana, Sicily is a place that is currently receiving attention from various investors and cultural associations. The studio would like to be part of this network for possible future projects and collaborations on the island.

parallel programme the Biennale as Metabolism
In addition to the Open Call The Laboratory of the Future, the Creative Industries Fund NL, in collaboration with the Nieuwe Instituut, also launched in July 2022 the Open Call Venice Architecture Biennale 2023 – Biennale as Metabolism: a parallel programme in the Dutch pavilion. For this programme, architects, landscape architects, urban designers and spatial researchers could submit proposals that reveal the invisible flows of materials, waste and labour concealed behind the presentations at the biennale. By identifying and visualizing this metabolism, the understanding and awareness needed to develop a biennale that makes a positive, sustainable contribution to Venice’s ecosystem can increase.

Selected projects Once upon a Time, a Sheet of Plywood arrived in Venice by Onur Can Tepe and Crispijn van Sas and RE-SOURCE by Ester van de Wiel each interrogate the flows behind the bienniale in a different way. What is strong about the selected proposals is how the questions are focused on the Venetian context and relevant local partners are involved. As a result, the projects are expected to lead to complementary and innovative insights that will add value to both the bienniale and the city.

Read more about the selected projects for the Biennale as Metabolism here.