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Venice preview: British pavilion

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The British Council’s Venice Takeaway asked architects to undertake study trips and bring back new models for British architectural practice. This is what they found. Text by British Pavilion curators Vicky Richardson and Vanessa Norwood

The British Pavilion presents the work of 10 architectural teams that have travelled the world to seek imaginative responses to universal issues and explore the ‘common ground’ of architecture.

Venice Takeaway charts their course in Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand and the USA. The participants’ findings are displayed in a Research Emporium, while the galleries of the ion present the Takeaway proposals: installations and objects that encapsulate their ideas for change.

Venice Takeaway aims to showcase talent from the United Kingdom, as well as provoke important debate about the path British architecture has taken during a time of flux. The programme is in part a reaction to the strictures of the current British institutional context; the 10 proposals are all fuelled by the desire for the architect’s role to be strengthened and for the profession to play a more proactive role in society.

The proposals defy the fear of risk- taking that has filtered into the country’s current practice, while at the same time basing their ideas on case studies from real, alternative practices. Rather than being speculative utopias, these are innovative interpretations of practices applicable as a model for Britain. The British Council’s commitment to the Venice Architecture Biennale is illustrative of the powerful contribution that the architecture profession makes both to cultural relations and to the UK’s economy. Drawing on an entire world of architectural knowledge, experience and ambition, Venice Takeaway is a reminder that the practice of architecture is as much about observation as it is about design.

We have taken inspiration from Albert Einstein who said, ‘If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?’ This is the attitude that challenges routines, reconstructs established practices and opens up the way for genuine innovation. The road begins in Venice; we look forward to seeing the direction it will take.

Vicky Richardson, director of architecture, design, fashion at the British Council and commissioner of the British Pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale. Venice Takeaway: Ideas to Change British Architecture, presented by the British Council, will go on show in London at the RIBA Gallery next year. It will be the first time the exhibition in the British Pavilion has transferred to London.

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