Biennale Architettura 2021: How Will We Live Together?
This year, Venice’s bi-annual International Architecture Exhibition1 has taken on the critical question of How Will We Live Together? The Venice Architecture Biennale is one of the most prestigious exhibitions in the world, attracting participation and audiences from all over the world. The 17th edition of this event brought together 60 national pavilions as well as a range of innovative installations. This article enquires into Anna-Marie Mašková’s personal experience of the work showcased in Venice. Anna-Marie is a passionate architecture student and an intern at AKKA Architects in Amsterdam. After her visit to Venice, we sit with her to hear about her experience. As a young practitioner entering the field, she offers a valuable perspective on the significance of sustainable design and how it can guarantee to meet the needs of future generations.
‘We need a new spatial contract. In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together’
-Hashim Sarkis, 2021 Biennale Curator
Source: Anna-Marie Mašková. Venice Biennale 2021
What is the relevance of the 2021 exhibition theme, 'How Will We Live Together?'
“The pandemic has accelerated so many issues in our society and I think the 2021 Biennale has laid them out front and centre.”
The curator of the 2021 Biennale states that the exhibition “calls on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together”1. The pandemic has undoubtedly reshaped the way people feel about this topic. Anna-Marie stresses a pinnacle example of this being the “long-term psychological damage for many caused by spending months on end in quarantine in what could be considered a cell”. She sees this as evidence in support of “creating spaces which are adaptable, that will be able to withstand the challenges in the future”.
What do you feel are the key theoretical questions raised at the exhibition?
“Sometimes we have to look to the past to understand how we used to live together, see if there’s something we can learn from past practices.”
Anna-Marie highlights the Dutch3 and Japanese4 pavilions for the important questions they have raised. The Dutch exhibit focuses on the ‘we’ aspect of the 2021 Biennale theme. Looking back into their complex history, the Dutch encourage audiences to consider who is included and thus who is potentially excluded from this collective notion of ‘we’. The Japanese pavilion, on the other hand, presents the disassembled house of a resident who passed away, along with the memories it holds. Adhering to the idea of looking back in time, this pavilion prompts us to see what there is to gain from exploring the ways we used to live. Both exhibits exemplify how evaluating our history can be beneficial for developing the solutions of today.
Which pavilion left the biggest impression on you?
“The Nordic Pavilion. It was so interesting to see a totally different way of doing a residential project. It’s radical, it’s sustainable- socially, economically, and material-wise”
The Nordic pavilion2 showcases an award-winning co-housing model in Stavanger, Norway. The design involves residents sharing their budget and skills, as well as a lot of social time together. Anna-Marie recalls an instance in which the entire co-op came together to help a young couple adapt their space for the needs of a newborn’s arrival. The project not only demonstrates the use of adaptable, non-toxic materials, but also emphasises the importance of creating socially sustainable living contexts in which residents can rely on one another.
Source: Anna-Marie Mašková. Nordic pavilion [left] and Japanese pavilion [right]
What developments in architecture and design do you hope to see in the coming years?
“Pressure on the industry to produce socially and climatically responsible materials.”
Sustainable design is a recurrent theme throughout the Biennale this year. Anna-Marie notes the prevalence of material research. Organic fibre compost of different materials, is being demonstrated as highly effective, non-toxic building materials. She hopes that with the commercialisation of these materials architects will be able to tap into this conversation and move away from unsustainable materials like plastics. Anna-Marie highlights the responsibility of being a practitioner, and having a privileged position to advocate for forward- thinking materials.
“As practitioners in the field we can really take a hard look at our discipline and be really responsible about what we are using”
-Anna-Marie Mašková, AKKA Architect
As the Venice Biennale is one of the most prominent exhibitions in the world, having the opportunity to explore some of the main ideas and questions raised there this year is very insightful. Anna-Marie noted that “the fantastic thing about the Biennale is that you can see exactly where each country places its priorities”. Exhibiting a wide range of perspectives from across the globe provides a unique opportunity for professionals to reflect on what they want their designs to contribute to society.
Anna-Marie concludes that “the fact so many countries chose to prioritise sustainability in their pavilions, despite it being nothing new to design, indicates that current solutions are simply not enough for achieving our goals”. Today designing a sustainable future demands radically innovative solutions which drastically reconceptualize the very way we live together. This year’s Biennale has provided an important global stage on which to showcase these kinds of ‘out-of-the-box’ designs which we need. The United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow this month declared this necessity to prioritise sustainability with a collective sense of clarity and urgency we have not witnessed before. If you find yourself feeling inspired to make sustainability a priority of your own, we recommend taking a look at our two-part series on the sustainable home: Improving Energy Efficiency and Improving Your Self-sufficiency.
If you would like to discuss the 2021 Biennale or if you are constructing or renovating your workplace or home and would like some help, get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.