Sharjah Architecture Triennial: Just-announced projects to explore urbanism and climate crisis

The three-month event will bring together architects, artists, anthropologists, activists and more in the emirate

Internal view of Sharjah Vegetable Market, Al Jubail, Sharjah, 1980. Sharjah Architecture Triennial
Internal view of Sharjah Vegetable Market, Al Jubail, Sharjah, 1980. Sharjah Architecture Triennial

The Sharjah Architecture Triennial, which will open on Saturday, November 9, has announced its first group of projects and publications. The initiative is the first of its kind: an international platform that looks at urbanism and architecture in the context of the Global South, which encompasses the Mena region, as well as South and South-East Asia.

With its theme of Rights of Future Generations, the initiative explores ways of life and co-existence in urban areas, as well as the long-term consequences of climate change and how the next generation will confront these problems. The triennial will specifically focus on the main research areas of housing, education and ecology. These topics will be addressed through a series of public events across Sharjah, including an exhibition, artist commissions, panel discussions and presentations during the triennial, which runs until Saturday, February 8, next year.

Curated by renowned architect and urban designer Adrian Lahoud, who is also dean of the school of architecture at the Royal College of Art in London, the triennial will bring together interdisciplinary perspectives from architects, artists, anthropologists, scientists, policy makers, musicians and activists. Projects include the development of models for non-­irrigated urban gardens specifically suited for desert environments such as Sharjah and other Gulf cities. Artists Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernandez Pascual, who form artistic duo Cooking Sections, are producing a prototype with London engineering agency AKT II. The work aims to change perceptions about desert environments, regions often regarded as being barren and incompatible with cultivation.

A digital video still from visual artist Marwa Arsanios' Who is Afraid of Ideology? Part 2 (2019). Courtesy of Marwa Arsanios
A digital video still from visual artist Marwa Arsanios's 'Who is Afraid of Ideology? Part 2' (2019). Courtesy of Marwa Arsanios

Visual artist Marwa Arsanios also considers practices in agriculture and farming as the starting point of her research. She has investigated communal farming practices by eco-feminist groups in places such as northern Syria, where Kurdish women have established confederations, the Kongreya Star among them, that help govern society.

This resulted in the production of two films, presented as a video installation in this year’s Sharjah Biennial 14. Arsanios’s research for the triennial expands to communities in Colombia and Mexico, and is in line with her overall practice, which focuses on gender and politics in relation to industrialisation and urban development.

COMPOSE by Marina Tabassum, whose research project studies rising tides in the Ganges Delta and their impact on land and property ownership for the residential communities. MTA (Marina Tabassum Architects)
'Compose' by Marina Tabassum, whose research project studies rising tides in the Ganges Delta. MTA (Marina Tabassum Architects)

Marina Tabassum, who three years ago won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, examines a tenuous form of land ownership in a place with shifting landscapes, the Ganges Delta. Located at the junction of several rivers reaching into India and Bangladesh, the area faces regular flooding, with farmlands and residences often submerged. Tabassum’s research traces the effects of these rising tides on land and property ownership for the communities and their descendants.

Following the routes of dhows or wooden sailing vessels, anthropologist Nidhi Mahajan maps out the trading networks between India, East Africa and the Gulf. Within this cluster of maritime economic activity form socio-cultural ties involving financial liabilities and domestic relationships, which become the main focus of her research. Mahajan is interested in the existence of these operations outside of established global shipping routes.

A three-square metre maid's room in a contemporary apartment in Beirut. The photograph is from the project by Public Works Studio that looks at the system of employment for domestic workers in Lebanon. Maher Abi Samra
A maid's room in a contemporary apartment in Beirut. The photograph is from the project by Public Works Studio that looks at the system of employment for domestic workers in Lebanon. Maher Abi Samra

Meanwhile, Beirut’s research and design studio Public Works considers the architecture of the maid’s room, a typical feature of Lebanese homes, as a way to critique the Kafala system that is used to monitor migrant workers. The research project raises questions about the conditions for migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, with audiences at the triennial expected to reflect not only on the country’s laws, but also the sponsors, families and architects who benefit from this system.

Architecture office Dogma will present a new commission that is to be installed in the centre of Sharjah. Their work centres on the role of the public platform in society, drawing on historical examples such as Australia’s Aboriginal Bora Rings, which were used as tribal ceremonial grounds, and the ancient Persian audience hall Apadana in the city of Persepolis.

Other commissions include work on the legal history of the Ngurrara Canvas II, painting stretching eight metres by 10 metres that was completed by a group of 40 Aboriginal artists from Western Australia. Produced in 1997, the painting served as evidence in a legal claim by the Ngurrara over their native land and will be transported to Sharjah for the exhibition.

The triennial will also launch a series of online and print publications to complement the exhibition. Beginning this month, a series of essays by participants at the triennial will be released on various media platforms including on the event’s website, before being published as a book entitled Conditions in time for the opening. A second volume, Rights of Future Generations: Propositions, will feature documentation of the show alongside writings from theorists and activists. It will be released next spring. The full list of triennial participants will be announced next month.

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Updated: August 11, 2019 06:30 PM


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