National Pavilion UAE in Venice celebrates the fecundity of aridity - GulfToday

National Pavilion UAE in Venice celebrates the fecundity of aridity


Aridly Abundant exhibition in Venice.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Aridly Abundant, celebrating the National Pavilion UAE’s fifth participation at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, has been inaugurated and will be on view till November 26 at the National Pavilion UAE’s permanent pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia’s Arsenale — Sale d’Armi. It is supplemented by a virtual tour.

Curator Faysal Tabbarah said that “through Aridly Abundant, our aim is to change perspectives of arid landscapes as devoid of value, and reimagine them as an abundant source of knowledge and resources, by investigating an alternative and contemporary building system rooted in the UAE’s cultural and material environment.

“Our research integrates land-based practices with contemporary technology such as 3D scanning and 3D printing to present the potential of stone construction as an adaptable and sustainable form of architecture for countries affected by climate change to explore and adapt to their own environments.”


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The exhibition highlights the thriving ecosystems that have always been present in the UAE and its surrounding areas, developed by inhabitants who understood and cherished the land. Audio/Visual vignettes by commissioned artist Reem Falaknaz allow one to experience the environment of Al Hajar mountains, one of the focuses of the exhibition. She travelled through the area and her photographs narrate her experiences of her exploration.

The exhibition includes a large-scale drawing of the landscape and material culture of Al Hajar, telling eight stories learnt during fieldwork. Angela Migally, Executive Director, Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, Commissioner of the Pavilion, said that “the National Pavilion UAE has been a longstanding platform for the UAE to effectively showcase our knowledge and creativity to the world for the past 12 years, allowing us to impactfully participate in ongoing global discourse.”

A reader leafs through the publication accompanying the exhbition.

Laila Binbrek, Director of the National Pavilion UAE, said: “Adapting to climate change has been a growing source of concern around the world and Faysal’s research not only allows us to provide a locally-informed perspective, but also possible provocations to this problem as aridity becomes a new reality for many.”

The exhibition is also offering an accompanying publication titled In Plain Sight: Scenes from Aridly Abundant Landscapes, co-edited by Tabbarah and Meitha Almazrooei. Conceived as a travelogue, the contributors attempt to capture the multitudes contained within aridity. In addition to research by the curatorial team, the publication also includes photographs taken by Falaknaz as well as scientific essays, travel stories, fiction, and poetry contributed by academics, architects, artists, geographers and researchers based in the region. Published by Kaph Books, the book will be available for purchase at a later date to be announced.

Tabbarah worked on the project with his curatorial research team consisting of American University of Sharjah (AUS) alumni. The curator’s team also includes three interns from National Pavilion UAE’s Venice Internship Program. The Pavilion is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Youth.

Born in Aleppo, Tabbarah is an Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture at the College of Architecture, Art and Design at AUS, and co-founder of the experimental architecture and design studio Architecture + Other Things (A+OT), based in Sharjah. His work moves between computational tools, emergent technologies, materials research and historical archives.

He has published and exhibited globally. In 2020, his course at AUS, Architecture and Environmental Orientalism in the Arab World, received an Honorable Mention for the Course Development Prize organised by Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

He has previously held the position of Assistant Professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark. Almazrooei is a current Ph.D. student in History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her M.S. in Critical, Curatorial & Conceptual Practices in Architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation.

A view of the book accompanying the exhibition.

Her curatorial and editorial work includes public programming for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, publications for The National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates in Venice, and establishing WTD Magazine, an architecture and design publication in 2012 as a platform to collect urban narratives from the Arabian Gulf, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. 

Falaknaz’s work documents the social and physical landscape of the UAE and its inhabitants. In 2014, she took part in the Arab Documentary Photography Program that is funded by the Arab Fund for Art and Culture, the Prince Claus Fund, and Magnum Foundation. Her commissions include UAE’s National Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, Lahore Biennale 2020, and Expo 2020.

The National Pavilion UAE is an award-winning pavilion that curates lesser known stories about the UAE’s arts and architecture through its participation in the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions organised by La Biennale di Venezia. The Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation is based in Abu Dhabi and is a private not-for-profit foundation committed to the cultivation of a more creative, connected and thriving UAE community.

The Ministry of Culture and Youth is responsible for empowering and engaging the youth in the UAE by giving them opportunities to contribute to the creative development of the country. La Biennale di Venezia was established in 1895 and is today acknowledged as one of the most prestigious cultural institutions. Celebrating 25 years of excellence, AUS is ranked among the top 10 universities in the Arab world, acclaimed for its academic excellence, multicultural environment and outstanding facilities.


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