Venice architecture Biennale to go ahead in May with Lebanese curator at helm

Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis will curate the event which will run until November

ITALY, VENICE - FEBRUARY 08 : Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated across a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals. Grand Canal and palaces in Venice on February 08, 2019, Italy. (Photo by Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images)
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The Venice Biennale for architecture, officially named the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, will open on May 22, officials said on Monday.

Originally scheduled for May 2020, the exhibition was postponed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Curated by Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis, the architecture biennale is themed How will we live together?, which looks at structural problems within society and seeks ways to address it politically, socially and spatially.

It will include participants from 63 countries, with first-time presentations from Iraq, Azerbaijan​, Grenada, Iraq, and Uzbekistan.

Sarkis, who is a professor and dean of the School of Architecture + Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was named the curator in 2018.

Though the title of the exhibition was selected before the pandemic, Sarkis has acknowledged that events over the last year will make the show’s themes resound with visitors even more. “The pandemic has made the question [‘How will we live together?’] ... all the more relevant, even if somehow ironic, given the isolation that the pandemic has imposed,” he said.

Over the past year, Sarkis has expanded the show's seven sections to dig deeper into ideas regarding architecture and how it affects and reflects society.

“We need a new spatial contract,” Sarkis said during a press conference. “In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together.”

This year’s architecture biennale, which will run until November, will operate under strict Covid-19 protocols as Europe battles a third wave of infections despite its vaccine roll-out.

The organisers of the event have not specified the safety protocols in place yet, but the Biennale president told the Associated Press that they would draw from measures taken during the Venice Film Festival, which took place in September 2020.

However, it was not just the schedule of the architecture exhibition that was affected by the pandemic. The 59th International Art Exhibition was also postponed by a year and will now take place in April 2022 instead of May 2021.