Students, faculty, and alumni return to the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale

MIT faculty, students, and alumni will make significant contributions as exhibitors and curators at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Considered one of the foremost global forums for architecture and the built environment and drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, the Architecture Biennale takes place every two years in Venice, Italy.

The MIT-related participants are represented across the Biennale’s broad presence in Venice, from the official exhibition and national pavilions in the Arsenale and Giardini areas in the eastern end of the Venetian island to the collateral exhibitions and installations hosted around the city.

Curated by Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the Biennale’s main exhibition is entitled FREESPACE. The title refers to “a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself,” Farrell and McNamara state in a manifesto on the Biennale website.

This year’s event, the 16th international architecture exhibition organized in Venice, will open to the public on May 26. Participants from the MIT community include:

U.S. Pavilion: Rania Ghosn, El Hadi Jazairy, and Ann Lui SM ’15
The theme of the U.S Pavilion’s exhibition is “Dimensions of Citizenship.” Among the seven architecture and design teams selected for participation is Design Earth, the practice of Ghosn, an assistant professor of architecture and urbanism in the Department of Architecture, and Jazairy, a research scientist in the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism.

Lui, who received a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS History, Theory and Criticism) from MIT in 2015, is one of the pavilion’s co-curators. She is co-founder of Future Firm and an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Brazilian Pavilion: Gabriel Kozlowski SM ’15
The Brazilian Pavilion’s exhibition, “Walls of Air,” explores the ways in which to read and transgress the material and immaterial boundaries of Brazil and its architecture. As one of the pavilion’s co-curators, Kozlowski led an architectural design workshop in January at MIT to produce maps for the exhibition.

Kozlowski received a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS Urbanism), from MIT in 2015. He is currently a teaching fellow and research associate in the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism (LCAU).

Lithuanian Pavilion: Gediminas Urbonas, Nomeda Urbonas
Gediminas Urbonas is an associate professor in the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology. He and Nomeda Urbonas, an ACT affiliate, are curators and organizers of the Lithuanian Pavilion and its theme, “the Swamp.”

Headquartered in the Giardino Bianco Art Space in the Castello district, the Swamp program will involve exhibitions, performances, sound transmissions, installations, and other activities in various locations around Venice through November.  The Swamp team includes numerous graduate students, researchers, and others from multiple departments within the MIT School of Architecture and Planning.

Canadian Pavilion: Réjean Legault PhD ’97
The Canadian Pavilion is celebrating the historic renovation of its building at this year’s Biennale with an exhibition, curated by Legault, entitled “Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion in Venice.” The landmark pavilion in the Giardini di Castello will officially re-open on Saturday, May 26, to mark the 60th anniversary of its construction. Legault, an associate professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal, received a PhD in 1997 at MIT from the History, Theory, and Criticism section in the Department of Architecture.

Italian Pavilion: Carlo Ratti
The Italian Pavilion's exhibition, "Archipilego Italy," will focus on urban space formed by interior areas of the country, with particular attention to post-earthquake response for the Central Apennine region. One of the 30 projects being exhibited is from the firm of Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and professor of urban technologies and planning in the Department of Urban Studies & Planning.

Official exhibition: Cino Zucchi ’78
An alumnus of the Department of Architecture, Zucchi is the chief architect of Cino Zucchi Architetti in Milan, Italy. He is one of 71 architects and designers honored by the curators with inclusion in FREESPACE, the official exhibition.

Across Chinese Cities: James Shen MArch ‘07
One of 12 official collateral events, “Across Chinese Cities” is the third installment of an exhibition program focusing on the planning and development of urban and rural communities in China. The exhibition includes work from The People’s Architecture Office, co-founded by alumnus James Shen, who received his Master of Architecture (MArch) from MIT in 2007. Across Chinese Cities is hosted by the Università Iuav di Venezia in the Santa Croce section of the city.

Close Encounter: Gordon Bunshaft ’33 SM ’35
The Biennale also includes a historical intersection with an MIT-educated architect. Accompanying the main exhibition is a special section called “Close Encounter,” which presents “works that originate in a reflection on well-known buildings of the past." One of the 16 buildings chosen for this section is the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. 

Designed by Pritzker-Prize-winning architect Gordon Bunshaft, who received undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from MIT in the 1930s, the Beinecke building is famous for its façade, made from panels of marble so thin they are translucent. Heneghan Peng Architects, based in Dublin, Ireland, will reflect upon Bunshaft’s design as part of this special section.

-- Story by MIT School of Architecture & Planning, April 30, 2018