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Venice Biennale: First look at Caruso St John’s British pavilion

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The AJ can reveal the first photographs of the British pavilion, based on the theme of the Island, at this year’s Venice Biennale 

Designed by Adam Caruso and Peter St John, of Caruso St John Architects, and artist Marcus Taylor, the pavilion’s main feature is a temporary rooftop platform sitting above the Enrico Trevisana-designed villa which has hosted the British Pavilion since 1938.

The ‘elevated piazza’ offers views of the lagoon as well as a place for visitors to reflect. The peak of the pavilion’s roof juts up through the floor of the public space, ‘suggesting both an island and a sunken world beneath’.

The inside of the pavilion remains empty, but the two spaces will host a programme of events including poetry, performance and film, as well as architectural talks and debates.

Sarah Mann, director of architecture design fashion at the British Council – which is responsible for the pavilion – said: ‘During the selection, jury members were struck by the boldness and simplicity of Island, the proposal by Caruso St John Architects and Marcus Taylor. It offered an unmediated experience of architecture rather than an exhibition. Their reimagining of the pavilion forms an ‘island’. The apex of the original building’s roof pierces through a high platform, leaving the galleries below empty.

07. island the british pavilion © british council, photo by hélène binet

07. island the british pavilion © british council, photo by hélène binet

She added: ‘The project presents the pavilion as a meeting place for visitors, a platform for new ideas and a new piazza for the biennale. 

‘Taking this provocation, we wanted to use their challenge to demonstrate architecture’s capacity to be open and generous to open up the pavilion, creating a structure for visitors to enjoy a new perspective of the city of Venice and a new experience of the building.’

Caruso St John and Taylor’s Island concept is based on a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: ‘Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises; Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.’

The Venice Biennale, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara of Dublin-based Grafton Architects, runs until 25 November and focuses on ‘Freespace’ as well as ‘generosity, thoughtfulness and a desire to engage’.

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