This is the third in our series of essays covering the National Pavilion UAE la biennale di Venezia. The first presented an overview of Aravena’s theme for the biennale [Reporting from the Front] and the concept selected by curator Yasser Elshestawy for this year’s UAE exhibit [’Transformations: The Emirati National House’ – the Sha’bīyaa ]. The second took the form of a dialogue with Professor Elshestawy. In this essay, we navigate through the sequential layout of the exhibit paired with visuals of the spaces and look deeper into the Exhibition Catalogue as a document of exhaustive research and a valuable academic resource.
The 15th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia opened last month and saw the world converge on the floating city. The Biennale continues till November hosting pavilions responding to Alejandro Aravena’s curatorial proposal “Reporting from the front”. Aravena in his brief called for projects that are “looking for new fields of action, facing issues like segregation, inequalities, peripheries, access to sanitation, natural disasters, housing shortage, migration, informality, crime, traffic, waste, pollution and the participation of communities.” While most pavilion’s featured recent or proposed projects in response to this call for architectures that are responsible and responsive, the National Pavilion of UAE chose to look at the past.
The prevalent urban image of the UAE celebrates it as a forerunner in the race of defying vertical boundaries, testing technological limits and employing luxury as a substitute of the everyday. Prescribed a seemingly categorical and futuristic agenda, the National Pavilion of UAE opts to nuance this perception by showcasing a parallel narrative of progressive leadership and social responsibility as the subject of its exhibition at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia.