Alejandro Aravena's star-studded Venice Architecture Biennale will be a battle for better built environments

by Kim Megson | 23 Feb 2016

The director of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, Alejandro Aravena, has revealed that challenges facing the built environment will be the focus of this year’s festival.

Aravena, who is the winner of this year's Pritzker Prize, has pledged to curate a show that demonstrates “there is not only a need, but also room for action” in improving the environments where people live, work, interact and relax.

“There are several battles that need to be won and several frontiers that need to be expanded in order to improve the quality of the built environment and consequently people’s quality of life,” said Aravena. “More and more people on the planet are in search for a decent place to live and the conditions to achieve it are becoming tougher and tougher by the hour.”

The festival will be themed Reporting from the Front, and 88 participating architects and designers from 37 nations around the world will share how they are tackling a wide range of problems – from natural disasters to financial constraints, pollution, crime and housing shortages – to create successful built environments. High-profile architects and studios due to exhibit their work include Norman Foster, OMA, Kengo Kuma, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Turner-prize winners Assemble.

“We would like each country to share with the rest of the world the fights they face at home, so that we can be warned about challenges we might be unaware of,” said Aravena. “We shouldn’t be alone in the effort of improving the places where life occurs. The battle for a better built environment is neither a tantrum nor a romantic crusade. This festival will be more than a mere denouncement of the situation, or an inspirational locker room speech.”

The Biennale – which runs from 28 May to 27 November – will be accompanied by a number of associated events, including talks on the socially-minded work of Aravena and the overarching theme of the festival.

Special satellite projects will include an exhibition curated by architect Stefano Recalcati exploring the regeneration of urban ports and a London School of Economics pavilion researching the interaction between public and private space. London's V&A museum will organise an exhibition named A World of Fragile Parts which will display exhibits from the museum’s collection as 3D printed copies in an exploration of duplication.

Aravena emphasised that architects should relish the test of solving complex challenges.

“If you think you are a good professional in any field, let’s test your skills in challenging issues, not in a safe place where you can control the forces,” he said. “In real life those forces can’t be controlled. These issues require professional quality not professional charity.”

The Chilean architect, who is executive director of Santiago-based studio Elemental, was awarded the Pritzker – the industry’s highest accolade – for his “contributions to architecture and humanity past and present.”

In their citation, the judges wrote: “The role of the architect is now being challenged to serve greater social and humanitarian needs, and Alejandro Aravena has clearly, generously and fully responded to this challenge.”

Alejandro Aravena  Venice Architecture Biennale  built environment  architecture  design  festival 
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The director of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, Alejandro Aravena, has revealed that challenges facing the built environment will be the focus of this year’s festival. Aravena, who is the winner of this year's Pritzker Prize, has pledged to curate a show that demonstrates “there is not only a need, but also room for action” in improving the environments where people live, work, interact and relax. “There are several battles
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Pritzker-winning architect Aravena is directing this year's festival, which will run from May to November / YouTube
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