The United Arab Emirates has won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.
Curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, the UAE’s contribution to the biennale was Wetland, a pavilion that presents a salt-based cement alternative which could reduce the climate impact of the construction industry.
“[It] 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,” said the biennale’s judges.
Called MgO cement, the material was created from recycled industrial waste brine. To display the material, the UAE’s team created a prototype structure formed from 3,000 hand-cast shaped intended to recall “traditional coral-built houses”.
Alongside this structure, the pavilion displayed images taken by the artist Farah Al Qasimi of the UAE’s Unesco World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas (salt flats), as well as a soundtrack focused on the sabkhas.
Al Awar and Teramoto worked with 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 salt-based cement.
The biennale also gave special mentions to Russia, whose Open! installation was curated by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, and Philippines, whose Structures of Mutual Support was developed by Framework Collaborative.
Venice’s awards also recognised the German studio Raumlaborberlin, which received a Golden Lion for its installation Instances of Urban Practice, which was selected as the best contribution to the biennale’s main exhibition, How will we live together?.