The 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale asks how will we live together?

What will Australia’s answer be at the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale?

It’s the world’s greatest celebration of architecture, held in one of the world’s most divine cities. Here, what to expect at the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale.
The Venice Biennale is always, at its core, about relevancy – whether it be art, dance or architecture, the event remains deeply linked to not only the zeitgeist but to what perplexes, challenges and confronts us as human beings.
It comes as little surprise then, that the theme for the 2020 Architectural Biennale is “How Will We Live Together?”
The selection as curator of Lebanese-born, US-based architect Hashim Sarkis, dean of architecture at MIT, underpins the serious intent of the 2020 event, known formally as the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.
Sarkis’s practice, Hashim Sarkis Studios (HSS), has offices in Massachusetts and Beirut, and he works frequently in both countries. His highly acclaimed Housing for the Fishermen of Tyre – named one of the most significant 21st-century designs in 'The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture' – was built for one of Lebanon’s most socially disadvantaged groups.
Announcing the theme in July, Sarkis said: “In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together: together as human beings who, despite our increasing individuality, yearn to connect with one another … across digital and real space.”
He asked curators of the participating national pavilions to respond to themes such as “inclusive social housing” and “connective urban and territorial tissue”.
Some countries have already announced their themes. Representing Ireland, design collective Annex’s exhibition will be called Entanglement and examines how “design can meaningfully respond to the impact of data infrastructures and networked technologies”. The Canadian pavilion, Imposter Cities, by Montreal’s TBA and David Theodore, will “touch on ideas of identity, history and culture within the context of Canadian architecture”.
The search for Australia’s creative director for 2020 is yet to conclude, with expressions of interest for the role recently closing. The Australian Institute of Architects’ Venice Biennale Committee says the exhibition will need to “showcase Australian architectural thinking, culture and design, and tell a rich and engaging story about architecture and the Australian built environment to an international audience”.
“How Will We Live Together?” is something of a departure from the 2018 theme, “Freespace”, which, according to curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Dublin’s Grafton Architects, was about encompassing the “freedom to imagine, the free space of time and memory, binding past, present and future together, building on inherited cultural layers, weaving the archaic with the contemporary”.
Australia’s entry in 2018, Repair, was created by Mauro Baracco and Louise Wright of Baracco+Wright Architects in collaboration with artist Linda Tegg. The living installation inside the Australian pavilion involved sowing some 30,000 seeds of 65 species of Western Plains grassland plants under serious threat in south-eastern Australia.

A close-up look of the Repair exhibition. Photo credits: Chloe Naughton.

In a statement about the installation, Baracco said it examined how architecture could help to repair the places it is part of. “We believe there is a role for architecture to actively engage with the repair of the places it is part of – the soil, hydrology, habitat, connections, overland water flow, microorganisms, vegetation and so on – and that this type of repair is critical to enacting other wider types of social, economic and cultural repair.”
It will be fascinating to see how Australian architecture rises to the challenge of the 2020 theme
The Biennale Architettura 2020 takes place in Venice from 23 May to 29 November 2020.

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