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Spain clinches top Biennale prize

Spain won the prize for the best foreign pavilion at the seventh Venice Architecture Biennale last week with a cross-section of recent work by architects in their 30s and 40s.

The judges, chaired by Charles Correa, said 'it expresses the cultural roots of its architecture with elegance and clarity'.

Jean Nouvel won the Golden Lion for the best interpretation of the biennale's theme - 'City: Less Aesthetics, More Ethics'. He was praised for 'the extraordinary versatility and poetic creativity of his architectural and urban projects'.

Joseph Rykwert was awarded the 'Bruno Zevi Prize' for an academic of architecture, while Guggenheim director (and Bilbao museum commissioner) Thomas Krens received the prize for architectural patron. Ilya Utkin was chosen as the best architectural photographer for his images of ruined buildings in his native Russia.

Renzo Piano, Paolo Soleri and J rn Utzon were each given a Golden Lion for career achievement.

The British pavilion, titled 'City Visionaries', features Alsop & Stormer's West Bromwich C/Plex scheme; models of bridge projects and the Mind Zone by Zaha Hadid; Branson Coates' 'Ecstacity', and David Chipperfield's new Palace of Justice in Salerno and Davenport Museum of Art in Iowa.

Work by British architects on show elsewhere at the biennale includes the Richard Rogers Partnership's Welsh Assembly building and - in the Austrian pavilion - Foster and Partners' 'masterplan in progress' for the Eurogate project in Vienna. This involves the regeneration of disused railway land 2km from the city centre.

Under the direction of Massimiliano Fuksas, the biennale is billed as the biggest yet, occupying a large part of the Arsenale as well as the Castello gardens. At the Arsenale the dominant exhibit is Fuksas' and Doriana Mandrelli's 280m long video wall, showing a variety of city scenes, which stretches down the whole of the Corderie - the sixteenth-century rope-making sheds.

But the overall quality is disappointing; few national pavilions have risen to the occasion. For a full report see the review pages in next week's AJ. The biennale continues until 29 October.

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