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Britain's ‘courageous’ island-themed pavilion is runner-up at Venice

04. island, british pavilion, drone photography © british council, photos by cultureshock media
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The British pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale has been honoured by the festival’s awards with a special mention for its ‘courageous’ island-themed design

The top award of the Golden Lion went to the Swiss pavilion for its imaginative installation described by one of the AJ’s Venice bloggers, Laura Mark, as an ‘architectural version of Alice in Wonderland’.

The UK pavilion, designed by Stirling Prize-winning Caruso St John Architects and artist Marcus Taylor, was effectively runner-up as the only pavilion to receive a special mention. Its combination of empty galleries with a temporary ‘rooftop piazza’ was praised by the international jury as a ‘courageous proposal’ that used ‘emptiness to create a “freespace” for events and informal appropriation’. 

The design includes the apex of the roof of the pavilion building – the Enrico Trevisana-designed villa which has hosted the British pavilion since 1938 – piercing through a high platform surrounded by scaffolding.

The galleries below have been left empty creating a ’place of both refuge and exile’ which will play host to a programme of events including poetry and architectural talks during the biennale. 

Sarah Mann, the Director of Architecture Design Fashion who curated the British Pavilion, said at the biennale award ceremony last Saturday (May 26): ‘The British Council is delighted and very grateful that Great Britain has been awarded a special mention by La Biennale for our project ‘Island’ curated by Caruso St John and Marcus Taylor.

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Sarah Mann accepting a special mention at the Venice Biennale

‘We are thrilled by the positive reception we have received in demonstrating architecture’s capacity to be open and generous, and look forward to welcoming the many who plan to visit the Pavilion.’

The judges awarded the Golden Lion to the Swiss Pavilion for creating an enjoyable installation that tackled the ’critical issues’ of scale in domestic space.

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