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British Pavilion design team picked for 2020 Venice Biennale

Manijeh verghese & madeleine kessler, curators of british pavilion 2020 sm image credit web crop
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Architect Madeleine Kessler and writer and educator Manijeh Verghese have been selected by the British Council to curate its pavilion at the 17th Venice architecture Biennale 

The duo’s project The Garden of Privatised Delights beat an nine-strong shortlist to win the commission to represent the UK at the 2020 biennale, which is curated by Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis.

The winning concept, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, explores the ’creeping epidemic’ of privatised public space in cities across the country.

Kessler, an associate at Haptic Architects and Verghese, who is head of public programmes and exhibitions at the Architectural Association, said they aimed to transform the pavilion into a ’series of immersive spaces’.

The spaces would serve to critique how they are currently used, while providing strategies to ’increase people’s agency over public space’, the pair said.

In a joint statement, they said: ’In collaboration with our partners Museum of Architecture and the Saturday Club Trust, we hope to widen access not only to the biennale but also to who participates in the discussion around privatised public space.

’It is our hope that through the research, design and legacy of the project, we can begin to imagine all public spaces as Gardens of Delight.’

Sarah Mann, director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council, said: ’The competition generated a diverse field of applications which revealed the urgent challenges facing British architecture today – I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated.’

Shortlist in full

  • Mollie Claypool, Gilles Retsin, Alistair Campbell, Irini Papadimitrou
  • Beatrice Galilee, Adrián Villar Rojas
  • Hadrian Garrard and Diana Ibanez Lopez (Create London), Apparata, Seb Emina
  • Rachel Armstrong/EAG, Sarah Wigglesworth, Irene Gallou, Studio Swine, Ioannis Ieropoulos, Simon Park
  • Priya Khanchandani, Joseph Henry, Jayden Ali
  • Brendan Cormier, Ruth Lang, OMMX
  • vPPR Architects, Kate Goodwin, Create, Artist
  • Jonathan Tuckey Design, Kate Darby Architects, David Connor Design, Rural Office for Architecture
  • WINNERS: Madeleine Kessler, Manijeh Verghese

Shortlisted projects included The Gran Bretagna, a proposal by London-based studio Apparata, Create London and writer Seb Emina to turn the pavilion into a ’fully-functional’ pub.

Other architects on the shortlist include Sarah Wigglesworth, Kate Darby Architects, OMMX, Ruth Lang Irene Gallou and Jayden Ali.

The 16th Venice architecture Biennale British Pavilion was designed by Adam Caruso and Peter St John, of Caruso St John Architects, and artist Marcus Taylor.

It featured a temporary rooftop platform sitting above the Enrico Trevisana-designed villa which has hosted the British Pavilion since 1938.

The island-themed design was awarded a runner-up prize by the festival judges for its ‘courageous’ design.

While Sarkis was announced as curator for the next Biennale in December, the British Pavilion team has been revealed prior to the announcement of its central theme for 2020.

The Biennale will run from 23 May to 29 November 2020 in the Giardini and the Arsenale, and around Venice.

Selection panel

  • Sarah Mann, director of architecture design fashion at the British Council (chair)
  • Pooja Agrawal, co-founder, Public Practice
  • Eva Franch I Gilabert, director, Architectural Association 
  • Gabrielle Jenks, digital director of Manchester International Festival
  • Indy Johar, co-founder, Architecture 00
  • Alan Jones, RIBA president elect
  • Jim MacDonald, CEO, Architecture & Design Scotland
  • Farshid Moussavi, founder, Farshid Moussavi Architecture  
  • Manon Mollard, editor, The Architectural Review
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