arhtectural line drawing and floor plan of British Pavilion
Architectural elevation of the British Pavilion in Venice. ©

British Council

1991 saw the very first stand-alone exhibition of architecture in the British Pavilion. British Architecture Today: Six Protagonists featured six architects who represented an important cross-section of British architecture at this time.

The 1970s and 1980s witnessed the realisation of some, and destruction of other, dreams and aspirations: The 'establishment' of post-modernism and stone-clad facades, the call from the Prince of Wales for classical revivalism, and the primacy of the private sector have both created new opportunities and established tough constraints for the profession.

It was during this time that three major buildings, built outside the UK by London-based practices, achieved undisputed international status as milestones of the contemporary debate: Piano and Rogers’ Pompidou Centre (1977), Foster’s Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (1987) and Stirling and Wilford’s Staatsgalerie (1984). Recent projects by these architects were illustrated in the British Pavilion.

The 'Six Protagonists':

Sir Norman Foster

Nicholas Grimshaw

Michael Hopkins

John Outram 

Sir Richard Rogers

Henry Meyric Hughes, British Council, was the Commissioner of the Pavilion, supported by his colleagues Jacqueline Ford and Brendan Griggs as Deputy Commissioners. Richard Burdett, then Director of the Architecture Foundation in London, was the Specialist Adviser to the exhibition; he went on to be the overall Director of the Venice Architecture Biennale a few years later.