This year’s British Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia will highlight urgent issues including the demise of the high street, how we use facial recognition technology, and the decline in dedicated social places for teenagers, the British Council reveals today.
The Garden of Privatised Delights, curated by Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler, will transform the British Pavilion into a series of six immersive spaces. Each space will offer visitors an interactive experience of architecture, rather than traditional exhibitions that represent architecture through models and drawings.
Taking inspiration from Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, the exhibition explores the rapid rise of privately-owned public space, offering an inspiring alternative vision that urges both sectors to work together to create better-designed spaces for all.
In an effort to encourage greater inclusivity and consultation around architecture, the exhibition will pose questions and offer ways forward to challenges such as: how to make better use of green spaces in urban environments; can we rethink how public land is allocated and used; and how can the local pub be repurposed to serve the wider community.
Kessler and Verghese, through their practice Unscene Architecture, have invited five additional teams of designers to collaborate with them on the British Council commission: The Decorators; Built Works; Studio Polpo; Public Works; and vPPR. Each room in the pavilion will critique how specific public spaces are currently designed and used. Themes explored include:
- Publicani (The Decorators) – could the pub be more than a place for drinking and become a versatile centre for civic action?
- Ministry of Collective Data (Built Works) – could we rethink facial recognition technology and free our collective data for public benefit?
- High Street of Exchanges (Studio Polpo) – could the high street go beyond commercial interests to become a place of diverse social exchange?
- Ministry of Common Land (Public Works) – could we use citizen’s assemblies to develop new strategies for land ownership and use?
- Play With(out) Grounds (vPPR) – can we design new spaces in the city for teenagers to occupy on their own terms?
- Garden of Delights (Unscene Architecture) – could we open up and reprogramme exclusive garden squares to create more public outdoor space?
Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler say, “We are delighted to be working with an amazing team of design collaborators to explore different types of privatised public space in The Garden of Privatised Delights. We hope to initiate conversations around how the private and public sectors can work together to provide the public spaces that are missing in cities, and to make them accessible to all. By expanding the definition of what privatised public space can be, as well as widening the debate around who can access, own, design and use these areas, we hope to inspire more welcoming and beneficial public spaces for everyone to enjoy.”
The British Council has commissioned the British Pavilion exhibition at Biennale Arte for more than 80 years, and at the Biennale Architettura since 1980. A panel of architecture and design specialists from across the UK commissioned Kessler and Verghese from a shortlist of nine proposals submitted to the British Council via an open-call process in 2019.