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La Biennale di Venezia

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16. International Architecture Exhibition




Open to the public from Saturday May 26th to Sunday November 25th 2018, at the Giardini and the Arsenale, the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, titled FREESPACE, is curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara and organized by La Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta. The preview took place on May 24th and 25th, the awards ceremony and inauguration on Saturday May 26th 2018.

«With the aim of promoting the "desire" of architecture», President Baratta explained that this edition curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara focuses on the question of space, the quality of space, open and free space. The fundamental parameter of reference is indicated with great clarity.

«The desire to create FREESPACE can become the specific individual characteristic of each individual project.

But space, free space, public space can also reveal the presence or absence of architecture, if we understand architecture to be "thinking applied to the space where we live, that we inhabit".

And the International Architecture Exhibition will offer us examples, teachings, and topics of discussion. Therefore, we are thankful to Farrell and McNamara for having accepted our invitation and for the choice, which adds an important link to the chain of Exhibitions held over the years.»  

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have used the Manifesto FREESPACE, issued in June 2017, as a reference point for putting this Exhibition together. «We have found it to be a robust tool» they stated. «It has acted as a measure and a guide to finding cohesion within the diversity of an Exhibition of this enormous scale.»

The Exhibition FREESPACE will develop from the Central Pavilion (Giardini) to the Arsenale, and will include 71 participants.

The 71 participants will be joined by others gathered in two Special Sections: the first, numbering 16 participants, is titled Close Encounter, meetings with remarkable projects and will present works that originate in a reflection on well-known buildings of the past; the second, which counts 13 participants and is titled The Practice of Teaching, will collect projects developed as part of teaching experiences.

With regard to these sections, the Curators explained they have discovered «invention and creativity at the micro and macro scales historic buildings liberated by the intelligence of the architects; forgotten buildings re-visited and brought to life; transformative typologies of habitation; infrastructural needs translated into public and civic facilities.» Furthermore, «a key component in attending to the continuity of tradition in architecture is the practice of teaching. Many of the invited practitioners are actively engaged in teaching. The world of making and building merges with the imaginative world that is highlighted within the Exhibition.»

«We are hugely appreciative of the enormous dedication and passion invested by the participants» the Curators stated. And finally, in relation to the meaning of the word FREESPACE, the Curators said they are «delighted with the global engagement of participants and participating counties in the process of its translation. When we were writing the Manifesto, we wanted primarily to include the word space. We also wanted a new use of everyday words, which could somehow cause us all to re-frame the additional component that we as a profession can contribute to humanity. We see architecture as the translation of need in its widest sense into meaningful space. In the effort to translate FREESPACE into the many wonderful languages of the world, we hope that it prises open the ‘gift’ which architectural invention has the potential to contribute with each project. Translation allows us all to map and rename intellectual as well as actual territory. It is our hope that the word FREESPACE allows us to burrow into the aspirations, ambitions and generosity of architecture.» 


The Exhibition also includes 63 National Participations in the historic Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the historic city centre of Venice. 6 countries are participating in the Biennale Architettura for the first time: Antigua & Barbuda, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the Holy See (with its own pavilion located on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore).

The Italian Pavilion at the Tese delle Vergini in the Arsenale, sponsored and promoted by the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo, Direzione Generale Arte e Architettura Contemporanee e Periferie Urbane, is curated by Mario Cucinella and titled Arcipelago Italia.

This edition once again features selected Collateral Events. Promoted by non-profit national and international institutions, they present their exhibitions and initiatives in Venice during the 16th International Architecture Exhibition.


There are two Special Projects at the Biennale Architettura 2018:

- the Forte Marghera Special Project in Mestre, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, consists of an installation by architects Sami Rintala and Dagur Eggertsson, also built to host a series of events scheduled in Forte Marghera.

- the Special Project at the Applied Arts Pavilion in the Sale d’Armi in the Arsenale, reflects upon the future of social housing by presenting a fragment of the social housing estate, Robin Hood Gardens, which was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in East London and completed in 1972. Renewed for the third consecutive year, the collaboration between La Biennale and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has made possible this exhibition curated by Christopher Turner and Olivia Horsfall Turner.


The Biennale Architettura 2018 will be accompanied throughout its duration by a programme of conversations: Meetings on Architecture, curated by Farrell and McNamara, are an opportunity to discuss the different interpretations of the Manifesto FREESPACE and to listen to the voices of the protagonists of the Exhibition.

The program of Meetings is complemented by contributions from the Participating Countries and a calendar of conferences organized in collaboration with international institutions such as the London School of Economics/Cities and Alfred Herrhaussen Gesselschaft, and with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Finally, the Historical Archive of La Biennale di Venezia will present a meeting focused on architecture in the archives.


Following the success of previous editions, the Biennale Sessions project is held again this year for the ninth year in a row. This initiative is dedicated by La Biennale to Institutes of Higher Learning, Research Centers, Universities, and Academies of Fine or Applied Arts. The aim is to provide a facility for self-organized three-day visits for groups of at least 50 students and teachers, with the possibility of organizing seminars in the exhibition venues offered free of charge and assistance in organizing the trip and stay.


For the past decade, La Biennale di Venezia has been devoting increased attention to learning activities, and has developed a growing commitment to so-called “Educational” initiatives addressed to the audience of its Exhibitions’, to universities, young people, and children, from schools at all levels.

In the past two years, La Biennale’s two major exhibitions, the 15th International Architecture Exhibition and the 57th International Art Exhibition, counted a total of 108,297 participants in the Educational activities of which 65,823 were young people.

A broad Educational programme has been scheduled for 2018 as well, addressed to individuals and groups of students, children, adults, families, professionals, companies, and universities. All the initiatives aim at actively involving the participants, and are led by professional operators, carefully trained by La Biennale di Venezia. They are divided into two categories: Guided Tours and Workshop Activities.


The official catalogue, titled FREESPACE, consists of two volumes.

Volume I, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, is dedicated to the International Exhibition. Volume II is focused on the National Participations, the Special Projects and the Collateral Events.

The Exhibition Guide is conceived to accompany the visitor through the Exhibition. The graphic identity of the Biennale Architettura 2018 and the layout of the books are designed by an Atelier project, Dublin. David Smith & Oran Day. The three books are edited and published by La Biennale di Venezia.


The 16th International Architecture Exhibition is made possible by the support of Rolex, Partner and Official Watch for the event.

We wish to thank the sponsors of the 16th Exhibition: Artemide, Edison, JTI (Japan Tobacco International), Vela – Venezia Unica, Oakmount, Paola Lenti, Seguso Vetri d’Arte and Trenitalia Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.

Our thanks go to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

La Biennale would like to thank the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo, the regional Institutions that each in their own way support La Biennale, the City of Venice, the Regione Veneto, the Archaeology, Fine Arts, and Landscape Services for the City of Venice and the Lagoon, and the Marina Militare.

La Biennale wishes to thank our Donors, who are essential to the creation of the 16th Exhibition.


We wish to thank in particular for the additional support:


Official hashtags: #BiennaleArchitettura2018  #Freespace

Biennale Architettura
Biennale Architettura