The British Council presents Island at the British Pavilion for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which runs from 26 May to 25 November 2018.
This year, Island has made history, being awarded Special Mention for the coveted Golden Lion Award for Best National Pavilion by La Biennale di Venezia; this is the first time the British Pavilion and British Council has been honoured with an award at the Architecture Biennale.
The curatorial team, Caruso St John Architects with artist Marcus Taylor, have responded to Freespace, the theme of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 – set by the curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara – with the construction of a new public gathering space in the Giardini in Venice.
Visitors approaching the British Pavilion will find the building covered with scaffolding supporting a wooden platform at roof-level. A staircase running the length of one side of the building leads up to an elevated piazza, a place to meet or to relax amongst the tree-tops of the Giardini, open to the sky with views across the Lagoon. Tea will be served at 4 pm each day, with seats and umbrellas offering comfort and shade. The peak of the Pavilion’s roof projects up through the floor at the centre of the space, suggesting both an island and a sunken world beneath.
Throughout La Biennale di Venezia, the British Pavilion will host a programme of events, performances, installations and debates responding to the theme of Freespace and ideas raised by Island. The programme is launched at the opening of the Pavilion with a performance by spoken word artist Kate Tempest and has been produced in collaboration with partners including Tate Collective, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Design Museum, musician Matthew Herbert, poet Inua Ellams, Studio Wayne McGregor and many more. It will address topics ranging from migration and decolonisation to language and borders, from isolation and identity to buildings and landscapes. With the exception of these performances, the building will be empty, abandoned and untouched after the last exhibition. A detailed Pavilion schedule will be made available to visitors at the start of each month from June to November and please find updates on our programme page here.
“In past Biennales, the Pavilion has held curated exhibitions on architectural themes. This year, we have taken a different approach. There will be no exhibits; instead we have realised a structure that can be experienced like a building. There are many ways to interpret the experience of visiting Island and the state of the building suggests many themes; including abandonment, reconstruction, sanctuary, Brexit, isolation, colonialism and climate change. It is intended as a platform, in this case also literally, for a new and optimistic beginning. It is forward looking whilst acknowledging the past, whether good or bad.” 2018 curators Adam Caruso, Peter St John and Marcus Taylor
“This year’s winning proposal, Island, will represent Great Britain at the most influential gathering for contemporary art and architecture anywhere in the world. We are thrilled to present this new structure for the British Pavilion which breaks with convention, creating a place for visitors to meet and engage with the building and each other, in a new way. The accompanying programme of events will highlight the Pavilion’s role as a space for debate, for exchange of ideas and for visionary thinking.” Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion 2018
An accompanying publication brings together a collection of works that have informed the project. Published by The Store X The Spaces, the book features contributions from Kate Tempest and artist John Akomfrah, a reprint of Shakespeare’s Tempest and three short stories by Trinidad-born writer Sam Sevlon. The publication also features installation photographs by architectural photographer Hélène Binet and an introductory essay by Penelope Curtis, director of Lisbon’s Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. John Morgan studio has created a graphic identity for the project that takes its cue from the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, the cover of which, with the title set in white on a blue background, was said to resemble a chain of white islands in a blue sea. The book can be bought at La Biennale shop and online at The Spaces: www.thespaces.com/books
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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