The 17th International Architecture Exhibition
Curated by Wael Al Awar & Kenichi Teramoto, Wetland, the National Pavilion UAE’s fourth participation at Biennale Architettura and it’s tenth exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia, was awarded the Golden Lion Award for best National Participation at Biennale Architettura 2021. The Golden Lion award is the Biennale’s top honor.
Selected by the La 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 the jury said at the ceremony. 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.
Wetland presented 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 was hand-cast into organic shapes recalling the UAE’s traditional coral-built houses, forming a hand-built 7 x 5 meter prototype structure made of up to 3000 modules. The prototype was 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 exhibition also included a 3-minute soundtrack capturing the story of the sabkhas, the desalination process that creates brine and the research journey.
Wetland was invited to be a part of the World Around conference at the Guggenheim in New York City, utilizing the film for the showcase. Public programming also included a symposium at Warehouse 421 titled Wetland: How Will We live Together that included a display of research material and talks by Wael Al Awar from waiwai, Dr. Alamirareem Al Hashimi, a leading researcher on the urban development of the UAE, Dr. Kevin Mitchell, Professor of Architecture from AUS, Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib, urbanists and researchers from the UAE, Dr. Dionysia Aggeliki Lyra and Mohammad Shahid from the ICBA.
The accompanying publication titled The Anatomy of Sabkhas, was written by urban researchers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib and co-edited by Wael Al Awar & Kenichi Teramoto, included a supplementary volume by Agha Khan Award-winning Architect Marina Tabassum detailing the journey of the curators’ research for the Wetland exhibition.
The 17th International Art Exhibition, titled How will we live together?, curated by Hashim Sarkis, was open to the public 22 May – 21 November 2021.