UAE bags big at the Venice Architecture Biennale

UAE bags big at the Venice Architecture Biennale

VENICE: The National Pavilion UAE was awarded the Golden Lion Award for Best National Participation at La Biennale Architettura 2021 at an awards ceremony in Venice on August 30.

The Golden Lion award is the Biennale’s top honour.

Curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, Wetland, the National Pavilion UAE’s tenth exhibition at La Biennale Architettura, 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.

Laila Binbrek, Coordinating Director of the National Pavilion UAE, said, “Following ten exceptionally thought-driven and creative exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, National Pavilion UAE is honoured to be chosen for the Golden Lion Award for Best National Participation out of 60 national pavilions. Winning this award also coincides with milestone participation for us, as well as the UAE’s landmark 50th anniversary this December. Wael and Teramoto have put forward a notable contribution at the heart of a global conversation surrounding sustainable building, which makes us very proud that Wetland demonstrates yet another exemplar untold story from the UAE.”

Al Awar, who accepted the award on behalf of the pavilion at the ceremony said, “I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to the National Pavilion UAE team, the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and Youth, and all our cross-discipline collaborators who have enabled us to bring Wetland to life with their continued support.”

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Wetland presents a prototype of an environmentally friendly salt-based cement alternative from recycled industrial waste brine, which could reduce the impact the construction industry has on the environment.

The exhibition, which will remain open until November 21, 2021, also celebrates the UAE’s Sabkhas (salt flats), which inspired the research for the development of renewable building material, through large-scale images of the UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas (salt flats) created by New York-based Emirati artist, Farah Al Qasimi.

The curators worked with specialist teams at NYU 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.

A 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 accompanied the exhibition and explored the ecological and socio-economic significance of these natural phenomena in detail based on case studies, personal essays, and photography. A supplementary volume edited and written by Aga Khan awardee and architect, Marina Tabassum, details the journey of Wael and Teramoto’s research for the exhibition.

This is the region’s second-ever country pavilion to win the Golden Lion, following the Kingdom of Bahrain which was awarded the Golden Lion for the Best National Participation at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition in 2010.

Al Awar is the Principal Architect and founding partner of waiwai, an award-winning multidisciplinary architecture, landscape, graphic, and urban design studio, and Teramoto who was a founding partner of waiwai, recently founded the Office of Teramoto in Japan.


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