Bridging cultures through architecture at 2020 Venice Biennale

An exhibition highlighting the power of architecture to build connections and understanding between First Nations cultures in Australia and the Pacific region, among others, will be the centrepiece of the Australian Pavilion at the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Victorian architects Tristan Wong and Jefa Greenaway (Creative Directors), in collaboration with architectural anthropologist Elizabeth Grant, writer/producer Tim Ross, designer Aaron Puls and Graduate of Architecture Jordyn Milliken have been selected to represent Australia at the world’s most prestigious design and architecture forum with their project In | between.

It will offer a local and regional insight into the theme of next year’s International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, How Will We Live Together?

The 17th biennial exhibition is being curated by US architect Hashim Sarkis, who has called on the architecture profession to outline a pathway to a better future in the development of La Biennale.

Australian Institute of Architects National President Professor Helen Lochhead announced Australia’s winning bid at a special event in Sydney yesterday. She said the team and their concept encouraged a recognition and sharing of ideas between Australian design and that of our near-neighbours.

‘This innovative proposal demonstrates the potency of design collaboration to create culturally appropriate and meaningful architecture, while also highlighting the connections between First Nations people across the Australasian region,’ she said.

‘The exhibition will use the Australian Pavilion as a platform – as one of just 29 countries to have a permanent space – to showcase a collection of architectural projects from across the country and the Pacific region.

‘The theme seeks to embrace our diversity, rich Indigenous heritage and multiplicity of languages. It will explore how design can be a powerful form of communication which can evocatively represent Indigenous and non-Indigenous narratives.’

Australia’s project team said the pavilion design was ‘a series of powerfully optimistic works’ which foregrounds agency, deep listening, Indigenous knowledge and connection to context.

The pavilion will create an immersive experience of Country, language, and diversity, including defined spaces that speak to our near neighbours of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Central to the space will be a moment of pause, contemplation and knowledge exchange.

‘Architecture becomes the enabler to connect, to evoke Country, to reveal layers of history and memory, and to give cultural expression, predicated on a people-centred approach to a shared humanity,’ Creative Directors Tristan Wong and Jefa Greenaway said.

Professor Lochhead commended the diverse entrants from across Australia for the Creative Director role, notably the two other shortlisted entries – 15 degrees: Raising Albedo: Cooling Cities and Project<Public

The selection panel comprised Australian Institute of Architects National President Helen Lochhead; the Institute Chief Executive Officer Julia Cambage; South Australia Chapter President Tony Giannone; Executive Director, Public Spaces, NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment and former Director – Strategy and Engagement at Sydney Living Museums, Caroline Butler-Bowdon; and Australia’s 2016 Venice Biennale Co-Creative Director Isabelle Tolland.

Architects throughout Australia are invited to support their profession’s contribution to the international stage by becoming Network Venice partners.

The Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of Principal Event Partner, Brickworks; Supporting Event Partner, Smeg; the Australia Council for the Arts for the use of the Australian Pavilion and the City of Sydney for their support.

The Biennale will take place in Venice from 23 May to 29 November, 2020.