Thursday 24 February 2022

 

The British Council announces today that a team of architects and curators has been selected to represent the UK at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2023. The curatorial team selected is Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham.

The exhibition will explore non-extractive material culture­- revealing how diasporic craft and material cultures can help foster a more sustainable future for British architecture, built on principles of care and equity over extraction and exploitation.

The curators will transform the British Pavilion into celebratory spaces, collaborating with architectural practitioners, researchers, and makers. The exhibition design intends to embrace collective construction methods and processes that avoid exploiting people and the planet.

Jayden Ali is the Founding Director of interdisciplinary practice JA Projects and a Senior Lecturer at Central Saint Martins; Joseph Henry is a designer and urbanist, co-founder of platform Sound Advice and works as part of the Culture and Creative Industries Team at the Greater London Authority; Meneesha Kellay is the Contemporary Programme Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A); and Sumitra Upham is a curator and writer, currently Head of Public Programmes at the Crafts Council.

Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay, and Sumitra Upham said:

“We want to thank the Selection Committee for inviting us to curate the British Pavilion for la Biennale di Venezia 2023. 

“Our exhibition will explore architecture of the diaspora through a pre-colonial lens, celebrating the spectrum of architectural philosophies, making practices and material knowledge within those communities.

“Foregrounding their currency at a time of growing social polarisation and ecological degradation, we intend to amplify voices and perspectives that have been previously overlooked in British architecture. Our pavilion will readdress the architectural canon through a joyful celebration of pluralism.”

The British Council has been commissioning the British Pavilion in Venice since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK's artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a platform for discussion on contemporary art and architecture.

Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council said:

 “The British Council is delighted to announce the winning proposal for the British Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2023. In releasing the open call, we were looking forward to proposals directly addressing the urgent challenges facing society today and that would demonstrate how architecture can proactively respond. I would like to thank everyone who rose to this challenge and for the time, thinking and inventiveness that went into the proposals.”

“The British Pavilion presents a unique opportunity to reach an international audience on the world’s most prestigious platform for architecture. This commission will demonstrate how we can rethink our built environment and the architectural canon through a decolonial lens and learn from diaspora communities and cultures to create a more equitable, sustainable, healthier and joyful future.”

A panel of architecture and design specialists from across the UK selected the winning team from a shortlist of five proposals. The Committee members included:

Carole-Anne Davies, Chief Executive, Design Commission for Wales:

“This proposal immediately stood out among a range of incredibly stimulating submissions. The team clearly articulated their concept with a powerful combination of gravitas and irresistible enthusiasm. Their fresh, distinctive approach offers vital creativity and a compelling, critical proposal addressing the importance and impact of genuinely sustainable architecture and construction practice. It showcases an extremely talented team, engaging seriously and imaginatively with a key challenge of our age.”

Chithra Marsh, Associate Director at Buttress, Diversity Network:

 “This was an incredibly strong submission. The team demonstrated high energy and infectious enthusiasm for marrying the challenges of diaspora communities with sustainable architecture, while highlighting a global need to hear diverse voices through innovative thought-provoking proposals. I wish them every success in the delivery of the exhibition and look forward to seeing it flourish.  I have no doubt that it will bring joy and generate animated debate among visitors to the British Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Biennale”

Dr. Agustina Martire, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Queen’s University Belfast:

“This commission was one of a series of excellent, engaging and challenging proposals. The exhibition stood out by highlighting the need for a more sustainable, more diverse and inclusive practice of architecture, putting people first and presented with joy and enthusiasm. I look forward to the exhibition and the impact it may have on the Venice Biennale.” 

Vanessa Norwood, Creative Director of the Building Centre:

“The exhibition will be a timely, provocative, and engaging look at the future of architecture. A bright star in the Venice biennale firmament.”

This year, the British Council also shares details of four other projects that were shortlisted for the commission. They are: 

Project title: Moving Monuments
Team:
 Yinka Ilori Studio
Synopsis: Moving Monuments explores the typology of the pedestal as a spatial tool to elevate a hero and to create a physical manifestation of praise and celebration. Drawing from the Black Lives Matter movement and the removal of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol, Moving Monuments serves to trigger reflection on the way that contemporary needs, equality and political/social engagement are accomplished through everyday rituals. The physical manifestation is a shift of focus that occurs from the statue to the pedestal, creating a space for questioning what society should celebrate today.

Title: Material Reform
Team:
 Summer Islam,  Paloma Gormley, George Massoud (Material Cultures) and Charlotte Malterre-Barthes.
Synopsis: In light of the current social and environmental breakdown, Material Reform imagines a decarbonised and decolonised future. The proposal asks how we can critically reassess our relationships to the world by engaging with our landscapes in a holistic sense, through a better understanding of their geography, materiality, ecology, and place. The proposal focuses on identifying material shortcomings within the construction industry in the UK and highlighting the points of leverage from which change can be driven

Title: Listen Up!
Team:
 Dinah Bornat, Jo McCafferty, Cordula Weisser, Alexis Kalli, Giovanna Celeghin, Naomi Rubbra, Jessica Mitchell, Basil Anuar, Sally Bradforth, Barry McCullough
Synopsis: Listen Up! will occupy the British pavilion by showcasing work being carried out with young people across the UK. Their stories and lived experiences will be revealed, displayed, and broadcast – through models, drawings and film. Visitors will be introduced to new ways of working with young people, guided through best practice and inspired to try different approaches themselves. Young people working on the project will feel empowered and heard and there will be ways of working together with pupils and students from Italy as the project evolves.
The data and narratives collected will form the basis of a powerful lobbying tool for this cohort of young people to instigate the changes they want to see. A tool for young people to engage with us, on their terms.

Title: Grenfell Residents and Stories of the Home
Team:
  A Small Studio with Empathy Museum: Dr. Helena Rivera, Clare Patey, Kalliopi Bouzounieraki, Iria Suárez Martínez, Alice Kim and Jesse Lawson
Synopsis: The exhibition proposal Grenfell Residents and Stories of the Home aims to unpack the interconnected themes of housing, poverty, social injustice, racial inequity and the role of the architect. Through the lens of the Grenfell tragedy the exhibition aims to tell a personal story about people, communities and their homes.

Notes to Editor

Full press pack, including image here: https://bit.ly/Venice2023

For media enquiries regarding the British Council’s commission for the the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2023.  please contact:

Claire McAuley, British Council +44 (0)7542268752

Claire.McAuley@britiscouncil.org  Or email the British Council press team: venice@britiscouncil.org

About the winning commission

The exhibition (titled to be announced) will explore the architecture of the British diaspora through a postcolonial lens to present architecture as a form of material and immaterial cultural expression. It will reveal how respecting and learning from diasporic craft and material cultures can help foster a more sustainable future for architecture, one that is built on principles of care and equity over extraction and exploitation.

Dates
The 18th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023.

Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via:twitter.com/British_Design and www.instagram.com/british_design/

Winning Curatorial team bios

Jayden Ali is the Founding Director of interdisciplinary practice JA Projects and works at the meeting point of architecture, urban planning and art, focusing on public facing, cultural projects that strengthen communities and enrich society. Approaching a decade of working; previous projects range from architectural masterplans, new builds, refurbishments and exhibitions, through to the production of documentaries, urban research and the establishment of community institutions. He is a Senior Lecturer on Central Saint Martins’ MArch Architecture course, is a trustee of Open City/Open House and a columnist at Elephant Magazine. He is part of the Hackney Regeneration Design Advisory Group and sits on the London Legacy Development Corporation Quality Review Panel. Jayden has been recognised as a key voice in architecture ‘shaping a new future for London’ by the Design Museum, Wallpaper Magazine and the Architecture Foundation, and is included within the Architects’ Journal’s prestigious ’40 Under 40’ list.

Joseph Henry is a designer, urbanist and writer whose practice involves working closely with institutions to be more progressive in how they shape our urban environment. Joseph works at the Greater London Authority as Capital Development Manager in the Culture and Creative Industries Unit.  He previously led the Ecological Urbanism research inquiry, where he developed planning policy and guidance to embed circular economy principles into London’s planning system. 

Joseph, alongside Pooja Agrawal, co-founded Sound Advice, an extra-institutional platform that explores new forms of spatial practice through music. Sound Advice develops projects that foreground narratives and culture critical to designing a more progressive and plural urban environment. Joseph has written for titles such as Dezeen and Casabella He is a trustee of the Russell Maliphant Dance Company, an advisor to Thearum Mundi and an associate lecturer on the MArch course and Central Saint Martins.

Meneesha Kaur Kellay is a London based curator and writer. She is currently the Contemporary Programme Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), where she commissions projects and installations, and curates Friday Lates alongside the museum’s participation in the London Design Festival, biennales and other one-off exhibitions and displays. Previously she was Public Programmes Curator at the RIBA; led Open House London 2014; produced talks and events at the Architectural Association and was also the Assistant Director of AA Night School. Meneesha has conducted independent projects with Museum of Architecture, London College of Fashion and the Baltic Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2016. After studying architecture at the Manchester School of Architecture, Meneesha specialised in curating visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Meneesha has sat on the RIBA Architects for Change Advisory Board, was appointed on the 2019 London Festival of Architecture Curation Panel and is a Steering Committee Member for Design Can. She is part of the V&A Anti-Racism Taskforce and is passionate about decolonising cultural institutions.

Sumitra Upham is a London-based curator with an interest in making as a tool for social justice. She is currently Head of Public Programmes at the Crafts Council where she leads the team responsible for the collection, exhibitions and events. From 2017-2021 she was Senior Curator of Public Programmes at the Design Museum, where she was responsible for leading an interdisciplinary programme of events, residencies and temporary projects. Sumitra joined the Board of Trustees at Cubitt, the artist- run gallery and cooperative, in 2020. In 2019 she was appointed Curator of Programmes for the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial, titled Empathy Re-Visited: Designs for more than one led by Mariana Pestana. Previously, Sumitra was Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London where she curated educational projects and exhibitions including Radical Disco: Architecture and Nightlife in Italy, 1965 - 1975 in collaboration with Dr Catharine Rossi, See Red Women’s Workshop and Shout Out! UK Pirate Radio in the 1980s. Prior to this, Sumitra was part of the exhibitions team at White Cube. She holds an MA in Curating Contemporary Design from Kingston University in partnership with the Design Museum, London.

Captions for photos:

Image 1: The British Council have today announced the curatorial team that will represent Great Britain at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2023.  The team selected is made up of architects and curators Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham. They will transform the British Pavilion into celebratory spaces, embracing collective construction methods and processes that avoid exploiting people and the planet. Pictured (from left) for the announcement are Sumitra Upham, Jayden Ali, Sevra Davis (British Council, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council), Joseph Henry and Meneesha Kaur Kellay. The 18th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023. More information - https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/. Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via: twitter.com/British_Design and www.instagram.com/british_design/

Image 2:The British Council have today announced the curatorial team that will represent Great Britain at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2023.  The team selected is made up of architects and curators Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham. They will transform the British Pavilion into celebratory spaces, embracing collective construction methods and processes that avoid exploiting people and the planet. Pictured (from left) Jayden Ali, Sumitra Upham, Meneesha Kaur Kellay and Joseph Henry. The 18th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023. More information - https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/. Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via: twitter.com/British_Design and www.instagram.com/british_design/

Image 3: The British Council have today announced the curatorial team that will represent Great Britain at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2023.  The team selected is made up of architects and curators Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham. They will transform the British Pavilion into celebratory spaces, embracing collective construction methods and processes that avoid exploiting people and the planet. Pictured (from left) for the announcement areJayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kaur Kellay, Sevra Davis (Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council) and Sumitra Upham. The 18th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023. More information - https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/. Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via: twitter.com/British_Design and www.instagram.com/british_design/

Image 4: The British Council have today announced the curatorial team that will represent Great Britain at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2023.  The team selected is made up of architects and curators Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham. They will transform the British Pavilion into celebratory spaces, embracing collective construction methods and processes that avoid exploiting people and the planet. Pictured (from left) are: Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kaur Kellay, Sumitra Upham, Jayden Ali and Sevra Davis ((Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council). The 18th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023. More information - https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/. Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via: twitter.com/British_Design and www.instagram.com/british_design/

Images 5:The British Council have today announced the curatorial team that will represent Great Britain at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2023.  The team selected is made up of architects and curators Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham. They will transform the British Pavilion into celebratory spaces, embracing collective construction methods and processes that avoid exploiting people and the planet. Pictured (from left) are: Jayden Ali, Sumitra Upham, Meneesha Kaur Kellay, Joseph Henry.The 18th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will be held from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November, 2023. More information - https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/. Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via: twitter.com/British_Design and www.instagram.com/british_design

Selection panel

The UK’s presentation at the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is selected by an advisory panel of leading architecture professionals, from across the UK. The panel membership changes for every edition of the Biennale Architettura. The panel selecting the 2023 pavilion was chaired by Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion and also included:

  • Simon Allford, President RIBA
  • Gus Casely-Hayford, Director V&A East
  • Carole-Anne Davies, Chief Executive, Design Commission for Wales
  • Anab Jain, Co-Founder and Director, Superflux  
  • Chithra Marsh, Associate Director, Buttress Architects
  • Dr. Agustina Martire, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Vanessa Norwood, Creative Director, Building Centre
  • Dr. Neal ShasoreHead of School and Chief Executive Officer, London School of Architecture

About the Venice Fellowships

The Venice Fellowships enable students and volunteers to spend a month in Venice during one of the world’s most significant art and architecture biennales. venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/fellowship/how-apply

 Find out more about previous architecture exhibitions at the British Pavilion: venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/history and the work of the Architecture Design Fashion team at the British Council: design.britishcouncil.org/

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. In 2019-2020 we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 14.5 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. www.britishcouncil.org