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Venice Biennale 2018: meet the bloggers

Introducing the bloggers who will be keeping us up to date with all the goings-on at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, which previews this week


Peter cook

Peter Cook

Venice Biennale veteran as former curator (UK and Cyprus pavilions), exhibitor (all over the place), eavesdropper, internationalist, mouth-shooter, wearer of white in Venice, black or blue in London, shrill Remoaner, biscuit-building hater and Alsop mourner. Will be looking for something different and original among all the predictables.


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Lesley Lokko

Lesley Lokko is professor of architecture and head of school at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg. She is also the author of eleven best-selling novels. 


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Yael Reisner

I am a registered architect in Israel, who has lived and worked in London since 1990. An academic, researcher, writer, director of research-led practice Yael Reisner Studio, and since last week – curator of the 2019 Tallinn Architecture Biennale.

I’m looking forward to being surprised by what I’ll find at the biennale, as, I think, we all are. I’ll be searching for beauty, profundity, originality, some freshness and pleasurable experiences, among all the national pavilions, and the Arsenale. I expect joyful days, meeting lots of friends, surely all architects, and to be totally exhausted day in, day out. Twitter @YaelReisner


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Sam Jacob

I spend most of my time directing Sam Jacob Studio for Architecture and Design. Sometimes I teach too, currently in Karlsruhe and Chicago. 

I’m in Venice this year with a plan to do as little as possible. After contributing to the biennale for the last three editions – including co-curating the British Pavilion in 2014 – I think I deserve a break! Find me on the Via Garibaldi. Twitter @_samjacob Instagram @_samjacob


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Simon Allford

Founder of AHMM; a critic, columnist and teacher; and always an architect. 


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Laura Iloniemi

I am a Peggy Guggenheim groupie and an architectural publicist, currently guest editing an issue of AD. I am looking forward to working on events at this year’s biennale together with The Architectural Review, Form4 Architecture as well as with the Bartlett and Donald Insall Associates at UNESCO’s Venice premises. Aside from my own gigs, I am excited about the Vatican coming on board for this biennale, and will be sure to visit the Finnish Pavilion to see what my fellow countrymen are up to. 

My favourite restaurant in Venice is definitely Lineadombra with its terrace and view of two Palladio churches, one of which is San Giorgio Maggiore with a gift shop where monks sell cheap and excellent wine as well as divine shampoo and bubble bath. Twitter @BiennaleBooks


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Ben Derbyshire

I’m president of the RIBA and chair of HTA Architects. I’m not a Venice virgin, but I’ve never been to the Biennale before. It will be great to see senior women in the profession so much to the fore this year – I’m very much looking forward to seeing Grafton Architects’ curation. Twitter @ben_derbyshire


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Paul Finch

It will be good to see Singapore with a proper presence in the Arsenale, and intriguing to see what various architects have done for first-timers Vatican City, on San Giorgio Maggiore. If you have never taken the lift to the top of the bell tower of the church there, it is worth the modest price – unrivalled views of Venice. I’ll be comparing it with the view from the roof of the British Pavilion.

Always something to relish at the Biennale – particularly lunch. No doubt we will get across to Burano for one of my all-time favourite restaurants, Da Romano, or maybe the glorious Cipriani on Torcello. In town, Corte Sconta is always good and Trattoria alla Madonna reliable. For something off-beat, try Osteria Al Diavolo. Anything with squid ink recommended.



Simon Henley

Architect, cycles a Brompton, partner at Henley Halebrown, MArch studio unit master at Kingston University, author of The Architecture of Parking (2007) and Redefining Brutalism (2017).

‘The unspoken wishes of strangers.’ Just one of Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara’s definitions of Freespace. What better way to describe great architecture? That’s what I’m going to see, oh, and the people. Of course, I can’t wait to return to Big Jim’s bookshop. Twitter @SiHenley


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Catherine Slessor

 Architectural writer, critic, currently contributing editor to the Architectural Review. Biennale veteran: this is my 12th. The tales I could tell. Twitter @cathslessor


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Phil Coffey

Life’s busy making buildings. Just 48 hours in Venice. Ordered start. Serendipitous finish. Debate and dinner. A wander. A long lunch. Maybe a party. Home. 


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 Peter McCaughey

I’m lead artist at WAVEparticle, and for this year’s biennale, I have selected a team of artists and architects who are experts in play and exploring the spaces in between. We will encourage everyone into a vital relationship with the built environment, using play as an active agent within the process of rethinking and reclaiming their Freespace. Representing Scotland, we welcome you to The Happenstance at Palazzo Zenobio in Dorsoduro. Twitter @McCaugheyPeter 


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Laura Mark

I’m architecture projects manager at the Royal Academy of Arts. As part of the RA’s architecture programme, I’m working on an installation-based programme which will inhabit Caruso St John’s empty British Pavilion later in the summer.

I am particularly looking forward to Kate Tempest’s performance to open the British Pavilion and I’m hoping that this year I won’t get so lost in the backstreets of Venice! Twitter @mark_itecture Instagram @mark_itecture



Meneesha Kellay

I’m a curator at the RIBA and we are excited to be holding the first talk in a programme of events at the British Pavilion this year in lieu of an exhibition. 

Other than Caruso St John’s Island, I’m looking forward to seeing work by the strong Irish contingent and I always enjoy the Japanese Pavilion. I’m curious about the huge number of international participants in their exhibition this year. 



Chris Boyce

I’ve spent 20 years in big practice. Formerly design director at Capita, I recently established Assorted Skills + Talents*. I’m a wayward ex-Bartlett man, sometimes outspoken, always opinionated – I’ve an eye for detail but no patience. I’ll be heading to Venice to soak up 48 hours of parties, conversation and sharp thinking via Milan, a Vespa, Modena (for Ferrari Yellow) and probably too much Amerone. Twitter @MrBoyce



Siobhain Forde 

I am a practising architect, working at Stallan Brand in Glasgow. Stallan-Brand is part of the Scotland + Venice project, The Happenstance, exploring how young people in Scotland respond to Freespace – in Stallan Brand’s case this comes through an investigation of education design and practice. I took part in workshops in schools in the Scottish Borders – the enthusiasm of the young people was brilliant, so I look forward to seeing it being presented.

This will be my first experience of a Venice Biennale opening weekend, and I’m excited at the prospect of being amid all the buzz. I have a lot of friends involved in The Happenstance and I’ll be delighted to see their hard work come to fruition. Twitter @seanieforde Instagram @siobhainforde


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Miriam Delaney

I’m an architect and lecturer at the Dublin School of Architecture and one of the Free Market team representing Ireland in Venice. If I can get away after the vernissage, I’m planning a trip to Isola di San Michele, and to see the ‘Dancing with Myself’ exhibition at Palazzo Grassi, but most of all, I’m looking forward to the party after the Irish Launch at Zanzibar at Campo S.Maria Formosa on Thursday night. Twitter @freemarket_irl Instagram @freemarket_irl


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Tamsie Thomson

I am director of the world’s largest architecture festival, the London Festival of Architecture. Having taken MIPIM by storm earlier this year with the #seetheelephant campaign, I’m looking forward to a quiet Venice vernissage, skirting controversy and sipping negronis. Twitter @tamsiethomson


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Rob Wilson

Tenth architecture biennale and counting – 18th including the art ones. Jaded, moi? And yet I’m really excited this year to see how Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell have marshalled their FreeSpace theme – in particular looking forward to the special section ‘Close Encounter: meetings with remarkable projects’ – a roll call of Irish architects reflecting on well-known buildings.

As usual, I’ll make a beeline for the Swiss and German Pavilions, but with the Freespace manifesto appearing to have given real traction to the ideas behind some of the pavilions, I’m looking forward to the Irish and the British interpretations. Keen also to see if the latter’s ‘Island’ installation and indeed that of the other main UK contribution – the V&A’s three-storey chunk of Robin Hood Gardens – live up to the power of their ideas.

Aim to carve out space for one early evening to visit as per usual to Cantina del Vino Già Schiavi on Fondamenta Nani for requisite prosecco and antipasti and will no doubt enjoy a lunchtime guilty pleasure of an eggy soggy white-bread tramezzini. And plan to get up very early Sunday to get to the Accademia when it opens at 8am to see the Gi before the tourist wall hits (hope springs eternal).


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Manon Mollard

Deputy editor of the Architectural Review. Spent the last biennale running around Venice’s labyrinthine streets carrying a camera and heavy tripod. This year, my main commitment is to co-chair the Europa Super Session at the British Pavilion, but I’ll have lots of time to actually see the exhibitions and understand what Freespace is. Equally excited about visiting the Vatican chapels on San Giorgio Maggiore island and catching up with old and new friends over a glass of real prosecco. I also plan on going swimming at the Lido and stroking Ando’s polished concrete at the Punta Della Dogana museum. Twitter @manonmollard Instagram @manon.mollard


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Jeremy Melvin

I don’t know what a blog is, but I’m going to give it a go. I talk too much and write too little; mainly about architecture.

Ruskin’s spectre haunts the alleyways of Venice, bringing to mind his statement that a wonderful Renaissance palazzo was ‘formerly one of the noblest in Venice, but alas rebuilt in the pagan style and so devoid of interest’. ‘Freespace’ will have to be very free and very spacious to compete with even the trace an all-time great wind-up artist. 

Harry’s Bar is worth a visit, but don’t forget to read Hemingway’s short story The Good Lion beforehand.



Eleanor Beaumont

Editorial assistant at the Architectural Review. I am looking forward to some spicy architecture from young exciting talent at the Mexican pavilion. I will be enjoying the biennale with a generous side order of cicchetti and Aperol spritz along Fondamenta Misericordia before island-hopping to the peace and quiet of Burano and Torcello. Twitter @eabeaumont Instagram eabeaumont


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Merlin Fulcher

The AJ’s competitions and international news editor. I’m coming to Venice for an epic journey through the delights of Aperol and architecture. Part journalist, part poet, I would like my Venice debut to be all sketching cathedral domes and romantic gondolas, but I will probably be busily recounting vernissage mishaps from a shady press tent instead. Following a map sketched on the back of a friend’s restaurant menu, my main objectives are spending a thoughtful afternoon at San Giorgio Maggiore, exploring the Venetian Ghetto and avoiding boat sickness on the Vaporetto. But my combined curiosity for the Russian, Korean and Polish pavilions may lead me elsewhere … Twitter @merlinfulcher


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Jon Astbury

Despite a characteristically woolly theme, a lot of this year’s pavilions look to be shaping up nicely, moving away from the intense earnestness of 2016. After all the controversy, I’m looking forward to seeing whether the V&A has pulled off A Ruin in Reverse, as well as visiting a few exciting-looking new entries such as The Holy See Pavilion and the Cruising Pavilion. I’ll also be heading to Palladio’s Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza for the David Chipperfield Architects exhibition.

It’s only my second time in Venice – and my second biennale – so I’ll be blindly following most of the recommendations I receive, then using them to impress in future blog bios. Twitter @jonastbury Instagram @jonastbury