What to expect from the first Sharjah Architecture Triennial: 8 things to check out

The triennial aims to create dialogues around the role of architecture in addressing issues of climate change

The inaugural Sharjah Architecture Triennial kicks off with an opening programme of talks, performances, screenings and more. Ieva Saudargaite
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The first Sharjah Architecture Triennial has launches this weekend  with an opening programme of talks, screenings and performances. Continuing over the next three months, the event will activate spaces all over Sharjah, including repurposed venues such as the Al-Qasimyah School and the old Al Jubail vegetable market.

But what exactly is it, and what can visitors expect to see, hear and do?

The triennial's self-proclaimed mandate is ambitious, calling itself "the first international platform of architecture and urbanism in the Global South". At its core, it is a gathering of architects, artists, academics, scientists, curators and policymakers to exchange ideas on architecture and urbanism in the context of the region and so-called "emerging countries" around the world.

Curated by Adrian Lahoud, the triennial is themed Rights of Future Generations and explores how the ongoing climate crisis has been inherited through the actions and decisions of previous generations. It also looks at what the current generation can do to address these issues through architecture, policy and artistic projects.

Al-Qasimiyah School. Courtesy: Sharjah Architecture Triennial
Al-Qasimiyah School. Courtesy: Sharjah Architecture Triennial

Three main research areas will be housing, education and ecology. Running until Tuesday, the opening programme will bring together renowned and well-respected names from various disciplines in talks and presentations. Here are a few performances and presentations to look out for in the coming days.

Exhibitions and Projects

Atacama Press Conference

Over the past three decades, researchers have been documenting thousands of geoglyphs scattered across Chile's Atacama Desert.

These prehistoric works have been built by indigenous people who worked the land – extracting and adding elements – to produce geometric forms and zoomorphic figures.

For the Sharjah Architecture Triennial, Alonso Barros, Gonzalo Pimentel and Juan Gili from the Fundacion Desierto de Atacama and Mauricio Hidalgo, a chief from the Quechua people of Huatacondo in Tarapaca, Chile, will discuss their efforts to preserve the geoglyphs and defend them from mining companies that wish to use the land.

Sunday, November 10, 10am to 11am, Al-Qasimiyah School

Chile's Chug Chug Geoglyphs, which feature both geometric and zoomorphic elements. Courtesy of Atacama Desert Heritage Foundation

Ngurrara Canvas II Awakening Ceremony

Produced by 1997 by a group of Aboriginal activist-artists, the Ngurrara Canvas II is large-scale work that was used to support their claim over a territories in the Great Sandy Desert in Australia. The work has travelled to Sharjah, and its unveiling will be accompanied by a traditional ceremony performed by attending artists.

Monday, November 11, 10am to 10:40am, Gallery 5, Al Muraijah Art Spaces 

Ngurrara artists producing 'Ngurrara Canvas II' at Pirnini in May 1997. K. Dayman / Ngurrara Artists and Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency
Ngurrara artists producing 'Ngurrara Canvas II' at Pirnini in May 1997. K. Dayman / Ngurrara Artists and Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency


Syrian Revolution Media by Stefan Tarnowski

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, a network of activists and citizen journalists have stepped up to document the conflict and the atrocities of the subsequent civil war.

Anthropologist Stefan Tarnowski’s lecture-performance details the founding of a media office that becomes a source of image production during a time of upheaval.

Sunday, November 10, 2:20pm to 3pm, Al-Qasimiyah School 

In 50 Years Or So by HaRaKa Platform/Adham Hafez Company

After the Suez Canal was built in 1869, a phenomenon began to occur – marine species from the Red Sea started migrating to the Mediterranean Sea, causing cross-contamination and endangering the water’s ecological health. In a three-act performance, HaRaKa Platform and Adham Hafez Company explore this phenomenon and the legacy of the canal on the generations of animal species in the Red Sea.

Act I takes place on Saturday, November 9, 7:30pm to 8:30pm, Al-Qasimiyah School 
Acts II and III take place on Sunday, November 10, 7:30pm to 9pm, Al-Qasimiyah School 

Talks on Music and the Arts Lawrence Abu Hamdan,
Lawrence Abu Hamdan performing 'After SFX' at Kunsthaus Bregenz. The artist will stage a lecture-performance at the Sharjah Architecture Triennial. Miro Kuzmanovic

Natq by Lawrence Abu Hamdan

A self-described “private ear”, Lawrence Abu Hamdan produces audio investigations to look into human rights violations, and these have been used as evidence at the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. His lecture-performance Natq is an audio-visual reading of his essay on reincarnation. By looking at the atrocities of the past, can ‘reincarnation’ be a way to fight for justice? How can the present generation stand up for victims of the past?

Sunday, November 10, 6pm to 7pm, Africa Hall

Ex-humus by Godogredo Pereira

Architect and theorist Godofredo Pereira’s lecture will cover the history of exhumations and how recent technological developments in DNA analysis and molecular biology have enabled scientists to detect human rights violations by looking closely at old bones. These exhumations are particularly important when looking at cases of genocide and ecocide. Pereira will discuss how exhumations can help in the fight for global climate justice.

Monday, November 11, 7:30pm to 8:10pm, Mleiha Fort


Production still from 'O Horizon' by The Otolith Group. Courtesy of the artists
Production still from 'O Horizon' by The Otolith Group. Courtesy of the artists

O Horizon by The Otolith Group

In Shantiniketan, a neighbourhood in Bolpur City, West Bengal, a university town owes much of its flora to Rabindranath Tagore.

The poet introduced new species to the area to realise his vision for the campus. His project raises questions about mankind's interventions into the natural landscape, and the O Horizon proposes that it is an example of terraforming, whereby an individual or group tailors an atmosphere for their own needs.

By looking at Tagore’s work and the work of modernist artists from India, the Otolith Group has put together a film that examines the so-called “Tagorean imagination”, taking a deeper look at how the poet’s vision for the future impacts on the local environment today.

Monday, November 11, 6pm to 7:20pm, Mleiha Fort 


A rich line-up of forums will be held throughout the week, featuring a diverse group of experts and practitioners from many fields.

Specific topics have been outlined for each day, namely Devotional Practices, Signs and Transmission, and Forms of Afterlife.

From November 9 to 12, various times and locations Sharjah Architecture Triennial opening programme runs from Saturday, November 9 to Tuesday, November 12 in various locations across Sharjah. Entry is free. The full programme schedule can be found on rfgen.net