Island text on photograph of sunken cathedral

John Morgan Studio for British Council

The British Council will present Island at the British Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which will run from 26 May to 25 November 2018. 

The curatorial team, Caruso St John Architects working in collaboration with artist Marcus Taylor, responds to the 2018 Biennale’s theme of Freespace – set by Biennale curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects – with the construction of a new public space on the roof of the British Pavilion. This elevated piazza will offer visitors to the Giardini a place to meet and a unique vantage point looking out across the Lagoon. At the centre of this new public space, the peak of the Pavilion’s roof protrudes up through the floor, suggesting both an island and a sunken world beneath. Below, the doors of the Pavilion are open to visitors, but the building is empty of exhibits.

Throughout the Biennale, the two spaces will host a programme of events including poetry, performance and film, as well as architectural talks and debates.

“There will be many ways to interpret the experience of visiting the 2018 British Pavilion. An island can be a place of both refuge and exile. The state of the building, which will be completely covered with scaffolding to support the new platform above, suggests many themes; including abandonment, reconstruction, sanctuary, Brexit, isolation, colonialism and climate change.” 2018 curators Adam Caruso, Peter St John and Marcus Taylor

British Pavilion Curators 2018 - Caruso St John Marcus Taylor - photo Lucia Scerankova
Curatorial team for the 2018 British Pavilion, Adam Caurso, Marcus Taylor and Peter St John ©

Lucia Scerankova for the British Council

Island will offer a thought-provoking experience within the Biennale, continuing the British Pavilion’s role as a platform for debate, for exchanging ideas and for visionary thinking. This is the first time we have a joint commission between art and architecture at the British Pavilion. Rather than presenting an exhibition, we want to offer an unmediated experience through a new piece of architecture, which offers a generous space to reflect and to come together.” Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion 2018

Island was selected as the winning proposal for the 2018 British Pavilion after an open call, with the final decision being made by a panel of industry experts:

  • Amanda Levete, AL_A
  • Pablo Bronstein, artist
  • Suzy Jones, RIBA North
  • Gary Boyd, Queen's University Belfast
  • Debika Ray, ICON magazine
  • Philip Long, V&A Dundee

About Caruso St John and Marcus Taylor

Caruso St John Architects was founded in 1990 by Adam Caruso and Peter St John. The practice has completed major projects throughout Europe and was awarded the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize for the Newport Street Gallery, built for Damien Hirst to showcase his collection of contemporary art.

Marcus Taylor has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas. His work has been collected by several major institutions including the Tate and Foundation Cartier. He has collaborated on several architectural projects as part of his artistic practice, most recently with Caruso St John Architects on the competition for the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial next to the Houses of Parliament.

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