Manijeh and Madeleine Kessler have worked together on summer school units, workshops and masterclasses on architecture across the UK.. ©

Image by Cristiano Corte

The British Council has revealed that curators Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler will represent the UK at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at la Biennale di Venezia. 

Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights, the winning project looks at how spaces such as the British High Street and the Playground are under threat from increasing privatisation. The exhibition will engage in the current debate around ownership and access to what we perceive as public space. The curators will transform the British Pavilion into a series of immersive spaces, commissioned from leading researchers and practitioners, presenting both a critique of how they are currently used while providing strategies to increase people's agency over their public spaces. 

The curators said:

'We are delighted to be selected as curators of the British Pavilion for la Biennale di Venezia 2021. The British Council commission offers a unique platform for research about public space to be collected, tested and disseminated in order to increase public agency across the UK and beyond. We will be working with an experienced team of architects and designers who are at the forefront of research and practise on this subject. In collaboration with our partners Museum of Architecture and the Saturday Club Trust, we hope to widen access not only to the Biennale but also to who participates in the discussion around privatised public space.  It is our hope that through the research, design and legacy of the project, we can begin to imagine all public spaces as Gardens of Delight.'

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 about contemporary art and architecture. The British Pavilion is made possible by the forthcoming and generosity of the group of Partners and Patrons. 

The Garden of Privatised Delights - panel discussions

In the run up to the opening of The Garden of Privatised Delights, British Council and Sto Werkstatt present a series of online panel discussions exploring the exhibition's themes with a panel of guest speakers.

Video 1:

The first of our public debates took place on Thursday 21st May 2020, and celebrated 'The Garden of Privatised Delights' exhibition at the British Pavilion. The debate was introduced by Amy Croft, Curator of Sto Werkstatt, and chaired by British Council Director of Artchitecture Design and Fashion, Sevra Davis. They are joined by 2021 British Pavilion co-curators Madeleine Kessler and Manijeh Verghese (Directors of Unscene Architeture), and Anna Mansfield, Director of Strategy and Research at Publica, and Seetal Solanki, Founder and Director of Ma-tt-er.

Video 2:

‘Can we live together?’ was an online public debate which took place on Wednesday 24th March 2021. The event asked: ‘What are the interplays and challenges of cultural identity and history as it affects the design process, materiality and final forms of architecture?’ and was chaired by Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture, Design and Fashion, British Council. Sevra was joined by 2021 British Pavilion co-curators Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler, Kieran Long, Director of ArkDes, and Bovenbouw Architects'Dirk Somers.

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