Saturday19 August 2017

British Pavilion curators announce collaborators

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Architects, activists, developers and artists challenge our concept of ‘home’

The curators of the British Pavilion have revealed their collaborators include architects, self-builders, housing activists, a developer – and a chef.

Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams said they hoped this would mean the pavilion’s proposals would be grounded in reality as well as “bold and visionary”.

The trio outlined their plans for Home Economics, the exhibition on the housing crisis that they are staging at the Venice Biennale, at a press conference yesterday.

They will fill the space with five full-scale immersive models designed by five different teams, each challenging the status quo of our concept of “home” through the lens of time rather than space.

Each team was asked to propose architectural responses – rather than solutions – to the conditions imposed on domestic life by varying periods of occupancy, said the curators. The five themes are hours, days, months, years and decades.

Venice Architecture Biennale - 2016 British Pavilion curatorial team (l-r) Shumi Bose, Jack Self, Finn Williams

Source: James O Jenkins | British Council

Venice Architecture Biennale - 2016 British Pavilion curatorial team (l-r) Shumi Bose, Jack Self, Finn Williams

The teams are architects and artists (see box), but they are working with a what Bose called a “broad church” of collaborators and advisers including engineers Arup and Atelier One, fashion house JW Anderson and activists Generation Rent. They also include developers The Collective and PegasusLife, self-build outfit Naked House and chef Fergus Henderson who is a trained architect as well as founder of the restaurant St John.

Williams said: “It’s not about designing new better models of housing but about designing new ideas of the home. That’s why we have asked diverse people working outside the profession to participate.”

Traditional rhythms of everyday life had collapsed demographics, social mores and technology changed, he said. They wanted to ask what the implications of this were for society and architectural culture.

Vicky Richardson, who commissioned the pavilion for the British Council, said: “It’s an incredibly ambitious exhibition but also incredibly optimistic and positive contribution to the debate.”

The idea of building inhabitable 1:1 models was to make the exhibitions accessible to the non-plan reading public, said Self.

Biennale director Alejandro Aravena’s theme – Reporting from the Front – was a paradigm shift from previous years, he added. “Rather than saying [to the curators of each pavilion] ‘Architecture is in crisis, how is it in crisis in your country?’, he is saying, ‘Your country is in crisis, what can architecture do?’ For us the obvious subject was the housing crisis.”

The five teams

HOURS – Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams

Bose, Self and Williams’ individual practices run across teaching, planning, developing policy, designing, writing, editing and curating.

This room reimagines sharing as luxury not a compromise. It will focus on the design of several important pieces of furniture, said Self. The importance of adaptability was underlined by the fact that a generation of bedrooms has become cramped because single beds have grown in the last 30 years. A key inspiration was the British terrace “architectural system”, with its rational not functionalist proportions.


Åyr (Fabrizio Ballabio, Alessandro Bava, Luis Ortega Govela & Octave Perrault) is an art collective based in London whose work focuses on interiors, domesticity, internet culture and the city.

The second proposal imagines a new type of personal and portable space, responding to the global domestic landscape that has been created by services like Airbnb. Reflecting the increasing engagement with social media, entertainment and virtual consumption, the proposal – more than clothing, but less than architecture – demonstrates an ambivalence towards its short-term physical context.

MONTHS – DOGMA and Black Square

Dogma is the office of Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara. Aureli has a teaching practice with Maria Scheherazade Giudici (Black Square) in London, across the AA and the RCA, looking at the political relationship between architecture, dwelling and the city.

The third proposal relates to short-term residencies, in the context of temporary work contracts, study visas or student semesters. It imagines a new form of rent, where a flat monthly payment includes not only the use of space, but all domestic needs, tackling issues of privacy and domestic labour.

YEARS – Julia King

Julia King is a British-Venezuelan architect who works as a sole practitioner in the UK and India. Her research looks at affordable domestic typologies.

 The fourth space relates to the period of years, and resists the assumption of home as an asset rather than a place to live. In these circumstances, the cost of purchasing a house is minimised, and thanks to a custom-designed mortgage product, property speculation is opposed: home improvements are made for the purpose of dwelling rather than profiteering.

DECADES – Hesselbrand

Hesselbrand is an architectural practice based in London and Oslo, founded by Martin Brandsdal, Magnus Casselbrant and Jesper Henriksson. 

Very long-term occupancies, suggesting inter-generational life and changing conditions of technological and physical capacities, are considered in the final space. The proposal is for a house that is defined by spatial conditions rather than specific functionality, allowing for a flexible use of space.

Curators’ statement

Bose, Self and Williams said: “Britain is in the grips of a housing crisis. This is not only a failure of supply to meet demand, it is a failure of traditional housing models to accommodate new patterns of domestic life. The way we live is changing radically through time. For the first time, we spend more hours at home looking at screens than we spend sleeping. The security of owning a home for a number of years is now out of reach for well over half of the UK under-40 population, and one in three children born in Britain now will live to 100, meaning they need homes for decades.

“Home Economics is not about designing better versions of established housing models that are already broken. It is about designing new ideas of the home, understood through the duration of occupancy. That is why we have chosen participants and partners who are working outside of traditional models, pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. We believe that British architecture is not responding to the challenges of modern living – life is changing; we must design for it.”



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