Exhibition

Wetland

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Contributors

Wetland Exhibition Research

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CURATORS

WAEL AL AWAR AND KENICHI TERAMOTO

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Publication

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Wetland – The making of Golden Lion Recipient for Best National Participation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia

Date: Thursday, 9th December, 2021
Time: 5:00 PM (UAE Time)

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The National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale Architettura, was awarded the Golden Lion Award for best National Participation. This year marks the National Pavilion UAE’s tenth exhibition at La Biennale, with its first exhibition in 2009 at La Biennale Arte.

Wetland was selected by the Biennale jury for being “a bold experiment that encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production on a local and global scale, and opens us to new construction possibilities between craft and high-technology”, Kazuyo Sejima, President of this year’s jury said at the ceremony.

We invite you to a talk by curator, Wael Al Awar, as he shares the journey of ‘the making of Wetland’, and how together with Kenichi Teramoto, the curators partnered with ongoing research teams at universities across the UAE and Japan to engage in interdisciplinary research collaborations.

The talk will include a brief presentation about the exhibition followed by a Q&A.

More about Wetland:

Wetland presents a large-scale prototype structure created from an innovative, environmentally friendly cement made of recycled industrial waste brine which could reduce the climate impact of the construction industry.

Created from recycled industrial waste brine, the MgO cement has been hand-cast into organic shapes recalling the UAE’s traditional coral-built houses, forming a hand-built 7 x 5 meter prototype structure. The prototype is accompanied by large-scale images created by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi of the UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas (salt flats), which provided inspiration for the research process.

The curators worked with specialist teams at the New York University Abu Dhabi’s Amber Lab, the American University of Sharjah’s Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences and the University of Tokyo’s Obuchi Lab and Sato Lab to develop the chemical formula for the cement and use advanced digital engineering technology to formulate a viable structure inspired by the concept of “future vernacular” architecture.

An accompanying publication titled ‘The Anatomy of Sabkhas’, written by urban researchers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib and co-edited by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. The publication includes a supplementary volume by Agha Khan Award – winning architect Marina Tabassum detailing the journey of the curators’ research for the Wetland exhibition.

About Wael Al Awar
Founder of waiwai
Curator of the National Pavilion UAE,
2021 Golden Lion Recipient for Best National Participation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia

Wael Al Awar , founder and Principal Architect at waiwai design (formerly ibda design) , a UAE based Architecture and Landscape design office which was established in 2009 after Wael moved to the UAE from Japan. He has extensive experience in designing projects of various scales and programs, including art centres and parks, school and university campuses, mixed-use developments, private villas and mosques. With interests in natural phenomena, landscape and formless diagrams of relations, Wael has a multi-disciplinary approach to design and is always looking to challenge conventional processes to push the boundaries of design.
Wael has worked in the Middle East, the West and for several years in Tokyo, working with renowned Japanese architects. He has developed a strong cultural understanding and geographical sensitivity to different project contexts, and offers the perspective of a permanent outsider working with no geographical boundaries. Wael holds a B.Arch from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

Wetland – The making of Golden Lion Recipient for Best National Participation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia

Wetland: How Will We Live Together?

Date: Saturday, 27th November,2021
Time: 1:00PM - 4:00PM(UAE Time)

The National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia and its exhibition “Wetland”, curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, was awarded the Golden Lion Award for best National Participation at La Biennale Architettura 2021. The Golden Lion award is the Biennale’s top honor. Kazuyo Sejima, President of this year’s jury, described “Wetland” as “a bold experiment that encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production on a local and global scale, and opens us to new construction possibilities between craft and high-technology.”

Warehouse421, In partnership with The National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia, presents this convening to explore the research journey behind the exhibition in Wetland, with material displays, and a presentation of the material exploration, publication research which highlights the significance of Sabkha a natural phenomenon which can play a role safeguarding sustainability and help inform us in How Will We Live Together.

Wetland presents a large-scale prototype structure created from an innovative, environmentally friendly cement made of recycled industrial waste brine which could reduce the climate impact of the construction industry. Created from recycled industrial waste brine, the MgO cement has been hand-cast into organic shapes recalling the UAE’s traditional coral-built houses, forming a hand-built 7 x 5 meter prototype structure. The prototype is accompanied by large-scale images created by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi of the UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas (salt flats), which provided inspiration for the research process.

The curators worked with specialist teams at the New York University Abu Dhabi’s Amber Lab, the American University of Sharjah’s Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences and the University of Tokyo’s Obuchi Lab and Sato Lab to develop the chemical formula for the cement and use advanced digital engineering technology to formulate a viable structure inspired by the concept of “future vernacular” architecture.

An accompanying publication titled “The Anatomy of Sabkhas,” written by urban researchers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib and co-edited by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, will also be released, including a supplementary volume by Agha Khan Award – winning architect Marina Tabassum detailing the journey of the curators’ research for the Wetland exhibition.

Schedule

1 PM: How Will We Live Together?

2 PM: The Anatomy of Sabkhas

3 PM: Sabkhas and Food Security

 

How Will We Live Together? 1 PM

Wael Al Awar, Co-Curator of Wetland at the National Pavilion UAE La Biennale di Venezia

Alamirareem Al Hashimi, urbanist, architect and historian

Kevin Mitchel, Professor, American University of Sharjah

Salt has been used as a natural material for the built environment since ancient times. It is a natural binder and an important material in buildings in Bolivia, Egypt, Iran, and China. Its use has also been seen in UAE. Architects have experimented with salt as an important compound to stabilize or finish their buildings.

Paradoxically, brine and excess salt have recently become a significant threat to sabkhas.
The National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition “Wetland” curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto for the 17th Venice Biennale, takes inspiration for UAE Sabkhas and is a collaborative investigation into how salt extracted from the residual brine of desalination might produce an environmentally friendly renewable material that could potentially replace Portland Cement while meeting the scale and speed demanded of modern construction.

This talk will share the curator’s journey in seeking inspiration from their local landscape to explore the production of a renewable building material with the help of ongoing research teams at the Amber Lab at The New York University Abu Dhabi, The American University of Sharjah and University of Tokyo.

The Anatomy of Sabkhas Talk 2 PM

The Anatomy of Sabkhas, written by urban researchers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib and co-edited by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, accompanies the exhibition, Wetland, curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto and explores the ecological and socio-economic significance of these natural phenomena in detail based on case studies, personal essays, and photography.

This talk attempts to anatomize sabkhas and explores the rural and urban transformation of UAE through sabkhas . The term anatomy suggests that sabkhas (or salt flats) are living: Sabkhas, which form part of wetlands, are an essential part of our ecological order. These complex natural phenomena are essential to plants, animal migration, and carbon sequestration, yet our understanding of them is still in its early stages.

Sabkhas and Food Security Talk 3 PM

Dr. Dionysia Aggeliki Lyra, M.Sc. Ph.D. Halophyte Agronomist, Research & Innovation at International Center for Biosaline Agriculture

ICBA with presentation contribution by Mohammad Shahid, Geneticist, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, ICBA

Sabkhas can play an equally important role in food security – the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it – as in combating climate change. Although the unpalatable quantities of salt involved limits research, a few papers are emerging and exploring food security experimentation.

Many salt-based plants are used for the production of vegetable oil as well as for forage crops in Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia (Pasternak, 1987)34. Salsola is used for the production of bioactive compounds, Juncus for paper, pulp, and fiber production (NRC, 199035). Animal feed is made from the Atriplex and Spartina plant species found in African, European, and Pan-American sabkhas; similarly from the Distichlis spicata in Mexico and the Prosopis tamarugo in Chile (Pasternak, 1987)36.

“In the UAE, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), a non-profit agricultural research center, is piloting a seawater based farm in a coastal desert area of Umm Al Quwain. One of the main areas of the ICBA’s research is in growing Salicornia Bigelovii—a multi-purpose crop that can be used for food, forage, and biofuel production that grows naturally on the UAE coastline and sabkhas. For example, Salicornia europaea, a halophytic shrub, is eaten as a salad in the Aegean region. Studies are now exploring whether it can contribute to different food products like juices, crackers and even burgers.”

Speakers Bio:

Dr. Alamira Reem Al Hashimi is an urbanist, architect and historian. She is the first Emirati woman to be awarded a PhD in urban planning and is considered one of the leading researchers on the urban development of the UAE. Dr. Alamira Reem is actively engaged on a strategic level with government initiatives in documentation and preservation of the built environment, knowledge development, and outreach, and has over 13 years of local and international experience in urban planning and design. With an extensive research background, she has authored several publications, including Planning Abu Dhabi: An Urban History, a book that explores and documents the trajectory of Abu Dhabi’s urban planning. She regularly shares her expertise on UAE architecture and urbanism, place identity and branding, and urban theory and design at industry forums, conferences and universities around the world. Dr. Alamira Reem has dedicated herself to advancing architectural and planning knowledge of the UAE locally and globally, and is committed to supporting dialogue and promoting critical research of the built environment in the UAE.

Dr. Dionysia Angeliki Lyra works as a Halophyte Agronomist at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai United Arab Emirates since 2013. She has been working on evaluating halophytic germplasm in inland and coastal desert areas exploring multiple uses (food, feed, bioenergy potential etc.). She is also working on modular farming systems that integrate agriculture with aquaculture utilizing low-quality water resources such as the reject brine from desalination to grow halophytes. After running a successful project funded by USAID in 2016, Dr. Lyra was announced as one of the 29 global innovators for EXPO2020 of the first phase of the EXPO Live program in 2017 and received a grant for the project “Inland and coastal modular farms for climate change adaptation in desert environments”. The project was a finalist under the category Farm Innovation Award–Agriculture and Food Security / Climate Change Innovation Award at the AGRAME exhibition in 2016 & 2017. She is currently working with national and international partners to scale up halophytes in farming areas in UAE and Egypt to create halophytic-based food and feed products. Her vision is to develop, through successful partnerships, integrated farming systems tailormade to the needs of farming communities living in salinized areas, utilizing low-quality water and land resources to grow halophytic crops enhancing food, nutrition, water and income security. Finally, she targets through community-based programs to raise public awareness and increase consumers knowledge on saline farming, desert agriculture and consumption of salt-loving plants.

Kevin Mitchell is Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), where is served in various administrative roles, including Chancellor from 2019 until 2021. Recent writing on architecture and urbanism in the Gulf region appears in Contemporary Urban Landscapes of the Middle East (Routledge), The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Architectural History (Routledge), and Urban Modernity in the Contemporary Gulf: Obsolescence and Opportunity (Routledge). Professor Mitchell is a founding Editorial Board member for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture and served on the Selection Committee for the Curator of the United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia/15th International Architecture Exhibition

Wael Al Awar Founder of waiwai, Curator of the National Pavilion UAE, 2021 Golden Lion Recipient for Best National Participation at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia, Wael Al Awar , founder and Principal Architect at waiwai design (formerly ibda design) , a UAE based Architecture and Landscape design office which was established in 2009 after Wael moved to the UAE from Japan. He has extensive experience in designing projects of various scales and programs, including art centers and parks, school and university campuses, mixed-use developments, private villas and mosques.With interests in natural phenomena, landscape and formless diagrams of relations, Wael has a multi-disciplinary approach to design and is always looking to challenge conventional processes to push the boundaries of design.Wael has worked in the Middle East, the West and for several years in Tokyo, working with renowned Japanese architects. He has developed a strong cultural understanding and geographical sensitivity to different project contexts, and offers the perspective of a permanent outsider working with no geographical boundaries.Wael holds a B.Arch from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

Rashid and Ahmed Bin Shabib are urbanists and researchers of cities across the Middle East and North Africa. They are the founders of Brownbook, a magazine that focuses on cities across the region. They have curated several exhibitions and collaborations, including at the Vitra Design Museum (2017), Serpentine Gallery (2016), UAE Pavilion Milan Expo (2015), and Lars Müller Publishing (2019). They both hold degrees in Urbanism from the University of Oxford and were nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2010 and 2019.

 

Wetland: How Will We Live Together?