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Niall McLaughlin to represent Ireland at Venice Biennale

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Niall McLaughlin Architects has been chosen to represent Ireland at next year’s Venice Biennale (2016)

The RIBA Stirling Prize finalist will be joined by AY Architects co-founder Yeoryia Manolopoulou to work on an exhibition focusing on understanding and improving the quality of life for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The team will examine the spatial experiences of people with Alzheimer’s and the installation will be accompanied by a social media campaign designed to extend the reach of the work beyond the Biennale.

McLaughlin’s practice worked with dementia sufferers from 1999 to 2014 while collaborating with the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland on the organisation’s first new building – a respite centre in Dublin.

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The scheme was set to be a test case for future developments and was seen as an opportunity to ‘improve the quality of life of a marginalised group by reaching towards an understanding of the deep human mystery of how we place ourselves in the world.’

However, it suffered a series of failures and as part of the work for the biennale McLaughlin hopes to look at the building through the eyes of those who use it.

McLaughlin commented: ‘Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition that progressively destroys the ability to remember and to navigate one’s way in the world. To be at ease, one must be able to situate oneself: to know when and where one is. This is what is destroyed by dementia. Situation is the task of architecture. The loss of one’s ability to place oneself presents a profound challenge for our discipline.

He added: ‘Our observations so far have shown that people with dementia will not necessarily place themselves in a coherent present place, but will allow time and location to slip. Where they are is not experienced as a logical organised sequence of predictable set pieces, but as a kaleidoscopic and fugitive state, haunted by other times and places.

The space will be full of terror, remembrance, consolation and beauty

‘We will seek to represent aspects of this manifold experience and to show it as a space with its own characteristics: full of terror, remembrance, consolation and beauty. Our central concept is to make an ambitious representation of this lived state. It will simultaneously be the building we designed and utterly unlike it.’

Christine Sisk, director of Culture Ireland said: ‘The Venice Architecture Biennale is the greatest world showcase for the presentation of contemporary architectural talent.

‘The selection of Niall McLaughlin Architects to represent Ireland in 2016 will serve to build on Ireland’s successes over the years at the Biennale and serve to further highlight the ingenuity and responsiveness of Irish architects to difficult challenges.’

The fifteenth International Architecture Exhibition, which is being led by Alejandro Aravena, will take place from 28 May to 27 November 2016.

Writers Shumi Bose and Jack Self and architect Finn Williams have been chosen to curate the British Pavilion.

Responding to the title of the 2016 Biennale Reporting From The Front announced by the victorious proposal entitled Home Economics will address the ‘front line of British architecture: the family home.’

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