‘Lifescapes Beyond Bigness’ exhibition explores the connection between human life and landscapes

The exhibition will be shown at the 2018 La Biennale di Venezia

A image of a local neighbourhood researched by Khaled Al Awadi for the National Pavilion UAE exhibition ‘Lifescapes Beyond Bigness’. Courtesy National Pavilion UAE – la Biennale di Venezia
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The National Pavilion UAE will present Lifescapes Beyond Bigness, an exhibition exploring human-scale architectural landscapes, at the 2018 La Biennale di Venezia, or Venice Biennale. This year, the 16th International Architecture Exhibition will take place between May 26 and November 25 under the theme of Freespace.

The National Pavilion UAE's exhibition aims to highlight the role of architecture and urban design in forming the choreography of people's daily routines. It particularly investigates the role of quotidian landscapes in accommodating, enhancing and facilitating social activities across different places in the UAE.

This choreography of informal, unprogrammed living spaces in the UAE will be explored through a curatorial selection of different typologies and places from the UAE's landscape, such as neighbourhoods, urban blocks, streets and alleyways, squares and public spaces, mountains and agrarian settings.

Lifescapes Beyond Bigness is curated by Khaled Alawadi, an Emirati scholar and architect, and assistant professor of Sustainable Urbanism at the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi.

Khaled Alawadi, curator of the National Pavilion UAE. Courtesy National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia

Through sophisticated site observation and mapping research techniques, the exhibition will present an exploration of physical characteristics and typologies; behavioural rhythms and informal patterns of life; and the architectural and design traditions that have shaped them. It will also invite visitors to experience important landscapes that are often overlooked in common perceptions about UAE's predilection for megadevelopments.

“This exhibition is an excursion into these humane and under-celebrated areas of the UAE, highlighting the interplay between the physicality of architecture and places, and the dynamic choreography of everyday life,” said Alawadi. “The exhibition weaves an array of original observations about different sites and lifescapes in the UAE, enriching our understanding of what UAE’s urbanism are about outside bigness.”

Khulood Al Atiyat, the manager of arts, culture and heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and the commissioner of the National Pavilion UAE, said: “Rather than focusing only on the design and physicality of the architecture itself, Dr Alawadi’s research encompasses human behaviour and social life to paint a rich picture of the UAE which will challenge ­preconceptions. His important original research will make an invaluable contribution towards understanding the region’s architecture and urban development.”

The Biennale's curatorial direction has been set by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects and each National Pavilion will respond to their overall aim to reveal the capacity of architecture to connect with history, time, place and people.

The UAE first participated at the Venice Biennale in 2009 with a national pavilion at the 53rd International Art Exhibition. It took part in the International Architecture Exhibition with a debut pavilion in 2014.

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