16.05.2023 Pia Thedens

In the Laboratory of the Future

18th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, © Andrea Avezzu - Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

In Venice, the 18th International Architecture Biennale will open this Saturday. Until the end of November, the world’s largest exhibition for the industry will show current trends in architecture and urban development at various Biennale venues in Giardini, Arsenale and Forte Marghera. Under the motto The Laboratory of the Future, selected architecture studios and national pavilions will present projects and approaches; this year, these will reflect on the subjects of decolonization and decarbonization. 

Curator Lesley Lokko and President of the Biennale Roberto Cicutto, © Andrea Avezzu - Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

A change of perspective 

The curatorial concept was developed by Lesley Lokko, a Ghanaian-Scottish architect who has spent many years investigating cultural, ethnic and gender-specific aspects in relation to people, culture and space. With The Laboratory of the Future, Lokko has focused the architecture exhibition on Africa, her own continent of origin.

The Laboratory of the Future 

The intensive examination of Africa at this year’s Biennale will, for the first time, shed light on the continent and the African diaspora which, while represented worldwide, has hitherto had little say in Western-dominated dialogue. The Biennale will contribute to the advance of ambitious and creative ideas; it will also dare to provide insight into a shared, just future.  

Urban development project in Ebrah, Koffi & Diabaté Architecture, © Eric Koffi - Courtesy of Koffi & Diabaté Architectes

Positive developments 

More than half of the participating creators of architecture come from Africa or the African diaspora. The gender ratio is evenly balanced; the average age of all participants is 43. For the first time, nearly half the participants represent individual or group practices with five or fewer people. In other words, things look rough for the large, celebrity architecture studios.  

Walter Hood, Hood Design Studio, © Chris Derry - Courtesy of Chris Derry

The main attraction 

The main exhibition, which will take place in the central pavilion of the Giardini, will present 16 participating architecture offices under the title Force Majeure. The offices include Adjave Associates, Kéré Architecture and artist Theaster Gates’ studio from the USA. In Arsenale, 36 architects will show hybrid constellations under the title Dangerous Liaisons.

Francis Kéré in the school library in Gando, Kéré Architecture, © Nataniel Sawadogo - Courtesy of Kéré Architecture

National pavilions 

This year, the 63 national pavilions are concentrating primarily on social and ecological sustainability. A few exhibitions will specialize in subjects such as water, food production and the right to living space. With Everlasting Plastic, the USA’s pavilion will focus on circular building. In Arsenale, the Italian pavilion will show Spaziale: Everyone belongs to everyone else, a project curated by Fosbury Architecture.  

Fragments of material from the Biennale Arte 2022, temporarily stored in the portico of the German Pavilion, © Arch+ Summacumfemmer Büro Juliane Greb 

The German pavilion 

This year’s German pavilion in Giardini is being curated by Summacumfemmer, Ach+ and Büro Juliane Greb. Open for Maintenance – Wegen Umbau geöffnet is devoted to repair, maintenance and care. This exhibition was created nearly exclusively of materials reused from the last Biennale; altogether, 40 national pavilions contributed. Rather than exhibit individual projects, the recycled pavilion itself will inspire architectural repair. With respect to the increasingly urgent question of resources the German team, by paying particular attention to decarbonization, will address a significant concept of the laboratory of the future.

Storage of collected spolia from the Biennale Arte 2022 in the German Pavilion, © Arch+ Summacumfemmer Büro Juliane Greb
Spolia of the exhibition "Queendom" of the Israeli Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2022, © Arch+ Summacumfemmer Büro Juliane Greb
Open for Maintenance – Wegen Umbau geöffnet, © Arch+ Summacumfemmer Büro Juliane Greb


Like the opening celebration, the conferral of prizes is planned for Saturday, 20 May. The Golden Lion will be awarded by an international jury led by Milanese architect and curator Ippolito Pestellini Laparell in the categories of best national pavilion, best participant in the laboratory of the future and most promising young participant in the laboratory of the future. Moreover, one national pavilion and two participants will be given special recognition.  

Accompanying programme of the Architecture Biennale 2023, © Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Space for communication 

An accompanying program of collateral events, presentations, podium discussions, films and performances will characterize this year’s Biennale. The Carnival will serve as a space for communication where various perspectives and viewpoints will be taken up and discussed. Interested visitors will share the stage with architects, academics and students; this will serve to narrow the gulf between architecture and the public. 
We will report on the opening on Instagram: @detailmagazine 

Event: Biennale Architetture 2023 – The Laboratory of the Future 
Exhibition venue: Venedig (IT) 

Exhibition dates: 20. May until 26. November 2023 
Pre-opening: 18. and 19. May 2023 

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