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Date: 2018-09-03 15:57:16



“The colonization period created several architectural and urban dichotomies, exploring local architectural antecedents and the native rooted tradition of Arab‐Islamic architecture in order to forge new styles. These dichotomies cannot be overlooked when assessing contemporary architectural practice since the independence of the Middle Eastern countries” – Hassan Radoine, Architecture in the Middle East: A Background, 2017

The rich history of architectural designs in the Middle East, can be attributed to the region’s geographical location, climate, topography, culture, environment, social and political histories. The built environment of the Middle East, particularly at present, has witnessed rapid changes in the ways that architecture contributes to shaping of its histories, which tell a different topographical story of past and present as observed in cities as diverse as Tehran, Jeddah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul and so on.

In contributing to the global architectural discourse, the region cannot be disregarded in relation to contemporary architectural trends, particularly in the Gulf area. This is particularly pertinent to conversations centred on how contemporary architecture cohabits with the built heritage of past civilizations. The enduring cultural, political and economic evolutions in a harsh physical (climate) context has generated intellectual and artistic exchanges making the Middle East a ground for continuous experimentation in new concepts and ideas of contemporary architecture and urbanism.

The Venice Biennale Architettura 2018, which runs from May 26 to November 25, is titled Freespace, a word that describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda. Middle Eastern Pavilions from the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Turkey, and first-timers Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, all respond to this “sense of humanity at the core of architecture” in different ways that are context specific, thus demonstrating the complex issues pertaining to concerns for a region that has witnessed a staggering boom in its built environment, and the balance of old and new, monumental and human-scale.


The Pavilion of Turkey – Vardiya (the Shift)
The Pavilion of Turkey offers an open space for creative encounters and collaboration with Vardiya (the Shift), conceived in response to the biennale’s overarching theme of Freespace. Curated by Kerem Piker and coordinated by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), Vardiya is committed to staging a program full of public events that will turn the Pavilion of Turkey into an open space for temporary accommodation, production and encountering. Curator Kerem Piker explains the curatorial framework by stating: “Architecture is a field that is constantly expanding, transforming and renewing itself. As such, there is a need for environments where architectural knowledge is reproduced, shared and discussed, and the voices of new participants heard.”

Vardiya is envisioned by the curators and commissioner to become a hotspot for workshops, roundtable discussions and informal meetings that will welcome 122 international students of architecture, academics, keynote speakers, tutors, guest professionals and visitors. Vardiya invites all to a continuous process of learning and production throughout the 25 weeks of the Biennale. The organization of the program puts architecture students at the frontline through an international open call that responded to questions such as: “Why does the biennial exist? What does the biennial do? For whom does the biennial exist?” Shortlisted participants, visitors and guests think through the purpose and role of the biennials through video installations. Along with the outcomes of this open call, students are encouraged to assume the role of active producers of an evolving exhibition content in the pavilion through workshops run by invited professional and student groups. There are around 50 digital meetings with participants from a range of disciplines and lectures by keynote speakers from an international roster of leading architects.

With Vardiya, it is intended that critical dialogue on the role of the Biennale ensues amongst invited guests, visitors, architecture and design professionals. Furthermore, the Pavilion of Turkey hopes to incorporate individual and collective experiments across generations and bring this into the locus of contemporary architecture’s agenda.


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