Ask people about the curators of the Biennale and they will immediately think about Alejandro Aravena, who is the curator of the 2016 edition of the Biennale Architettura in Venice. Even though he plays an important role by setting the overall direction with the theme ‘Reporting from the front’, it is up to the curators of the national pavilions and special projects to translate this into an interesting exhibition. Without them, there wouldn’t be much to see. In this post, I will give you some insights in the profile of the curators of this edition and I will also highlight some of the ‘outstanding’ ones (in the literal sense).
“Tell success stories and share exemplary cases where architecture did, is and will make a difference in winning the battles and expanding the frontiers in order to improve the quality of the built environment and consequently people’s quality of life.”
Alejandro Aravena’s assignment to the curators of the pavilions
On top of this, the goal of this year’s Biennale is also to broaden the audience. It should no longer be an exhibition by architects, for architects. Alejandro Aravena said that he “would like to widen the range of issues to which architecture is expected to respond, adding explicitly to the cultural and artistic dimensions that already belong to our scope, those that are on the social, political, economical and environmental end of the spectrum”. The Biennale will be inclusive and bring together architects, the civil society, leaders and the national pavilions to reflect the importance of architecture in daily life and to improve the quality of life.
Taking into account these expectations, the different countries have appointed one or more curators. I have looked into the different profiles of each of these curators and it seems that a typical curator of the 2016 Architecture Biennale is a male architect, representing his home country.
For the 59 pavilions and projects (on April 2), there are a total of 114 curators. While most countries appoint 1 curator who steers a team of collaborators or exhibitors, other countries prefer to give this task to a team or an institute. The largest curatorial team counts 9 curators and represents the Baltic States. Approx. 25% of the curators are female. Some of them work individually or together with men in a mixed-gender team, but there are also three all-female teams (Australia, Bahrain and United States). Most curators are architects, often specialized in urban architecture, but there is also a large group who is active in the academic world and many combine both roles. There is however also a scientist, an anthropologist, an artist and a strategic planner on the list. The large majority of countries prefer (at least) one of their own citizens to curate the exhibition. Only 6 countries looked outside their borders.
From the list of 114, I have selected five ‘outstanding’ curators. They all differ from this traditional profile in one way or another.
Australia: Isabelle Toland, Amelia Holliday, Michelle Tabet
The creative directors of the pavilion of Australia are the largest all-female team at this Biennale, and on top of that, they are also advised by another woman, Olivia Hyde. Isabelle Toland and Amelia Holliday established Aileen Sage Architects in 2013. Their portfolio ranges from (sub)urban proposals to residential architecture, public commissions and large-scale art projects. Michelle Tabet is an urban strategist. She defines development objectives and strategies to deliver innovative urban propositions. With their project ‘The Pool’, they want to show how a familiar, common object, such as a pool, has a cultural significance.
Israel: Ido Bachelet
Israel has appointed a team of 5 curators for their pavilion in the Giardini. One of them stands out of the group and is Dr Ido Bachelet. Next to the 4 architects, he is a scientist and principal investigator at Augmaniti (Israel). He is specialized in molecular programming, nanomechanics of biological components, and nanomechanical engineering and he is working on nanorobots to inject into the blood to find and destroy cancer cells. The Israeli exhibition is called ‘A is for architecture, B is for biology’, so I think we can assume he will mainly be responsible for the latter. It certainly promises to be an intriguing topic.
Nordic: David Basulto
Whereas the vaste majority of the pavilions choose a curator from their own country, the Nordic countries (Finland, Norway and Sweden) have decided to appoint David Basult, a Chilean citizen, as curator of ‘In Therapy’. David Basulto graduated at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and is the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Archdaily. He also gives lectures and acts as a curator, editor and jury member for many competitions and awards. With this broad background in architecture, he will be challenging what Nordic architecture really is, and what it could be in the future.
Egypt: Ahmad Hilal
I didn’t have all the data to calculate the average age of the 2016 Architecture Biennale curators, but I think I can say that Ahmad Hilal will be among the younger ones. He is a 25 years old architect, who is currently doing his master’s degree in Architectural Engineering at Politecnico di Milano. He obtained his bachelor degree at MSA University in Manchester. In parallel to his studies, Ahmad Hilal is a freelance architect and teaching assistant. As a curator of ‘ReframingBack/ ImperativeConfrontations’, he is steering a team of 4 exhibitors.
Italy: TAMassociati Massimo Lepore, Raul Pantaleo, Simone Sfriso
The curatorial team of Italy fits perfectly into the typical curator profile, as they are male Italian architects, representing Italy. However, as they are based in Venice and graduated from IUAV Venice University, they do stand out from the other curators because they play a home game. Their design studio TAMassociati brings sustainable architecture with respect for human beings and the environment and is hence in line with the overall theme of the Biennale. The team does a lot of health care projects in Africa and was for instance involved in building health care centres for refugees in Iraq. This social aspect will also be reflected in the ‘TAKING CARE – Progettare per il bene comune’ exhibition in the Italian pavilion in the Arsenale.
I tried to find a good definition of the word ‘curator’ in a dictionary, but I think most curators of the Architecture Biennale wouldn’t like to be called ‘a person who is in charge of the things in a museum’ (Merriam Webster) or ‘a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection’ (Oxford Dictionaries). The best one would probably be ‘someone who selects items from among a large number of possibilities for other people to consume and enjoy’ (Macmillan Dictionary). At least, this sounds like an active role, which requires involvement and takes the audience into account. How would you define a curator?
Now that you know more about the curators of the Architecture Biennale, why not take some time to read the previews of the different pavilions or to read my post ‘What to expect from the 2016 Architecture Biennale’. I have also asked the curators why you should visit their pavilion. You can find the first set of answers in my YouTube video. Stay tuned and follow The Venice Insider on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you don’t miss the next series or subscribe to the newsletter.
In the coming weeks, I will publish an article with practical information for your visit to the Architecture Biennale and with some insights on how the national participations get ready for the event. If you would like to take the opportunity to discover Venice while you are there for the Biennale, I would be more than happy to make your life easier and your trip more fascinating with a personalized Venice Insider Program.
SHARE THIS POST WITH YOUR FRIENDS ON