The United Arab Emirates has been awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale. The pavilion, titled “Wetland,” was curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto and demonstrates the potential of natural salt as an alternative to Portland cement.
“Prior to the pandemic, we started looking into sabkhas, a sturdy ecosystem of natural salt flats nascent to the United Arab Emirates,” the curators explained. “This inspired us to explore a renewable resource for construction, one that can replace Portland cement. The crystallisation of salt in the sabkhas offers a blueprint for an alternative to Portland cement, the production of which accounts for 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.”
The pavilion was selected by an international jury composed of Kazuyo Sejima (president, Japan), Sandra Barclay (Peru), Lamia Joreige (Lebanon), Lesley Lokko (Ghana-Scotland), and Luca Molinari (Italy). In their citation, the jury praised Wetland for “a bold experiment which encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production at both the local and global scales, and opens to new construction possibilities between craft and high technology.”
Meanwhile, special mentions in the National Participation category were given to Russia and the Philippines. While the Russian Pavilion was praised for its “sensitive and careful architectural renovation” at the Giardini, the Philippines were deemed to have offered “an exemplary community project that creates a rich archive and experience of collaborative construction practices.”
The Golden Lion for the best individual participant went to Germany’s raumlaborberlin for the pavilion “Instances of Urban Practice.” The jury praised the group for “an inspiring collaborative approach that argues for participation, regeneration and collective responsibility, resulting in two projects that are a model for imaginative civic revitalization.” The Silver Lion for a promising young participant went to the Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST) from Amsterdam and New York, with a special mention given to Kenya’s Cave_bureau.
Finally, on the recommendation of curator Hashim Sarkis, the Italian architect, designer, scenographer, artist, and critic Lina Bo Bardi, naturalized as a Brazilian citizen, was the recipient of the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam.
The Biennale will remain open until November 21st, 2021.