The Venice Biennale only began holding a distinct architectural exhibition – separate from the contemporary art showcase that is the organization’s central event – in 1980, but they say it has evolved into “the most significant point of reference for the world of architecture.” Since the turn of the “new millennium,” the Venice Biennale of Architecture has taken place every even-numbered year, with the 2016 event seeing some 260,000 visitors.
2016’s exhibition was curated by Alejandro Aravena, the distinguished Chilean architect who also won last year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize. Aravena has won multiple awards in the realm of sustainable construction and has themed the six-month event “Reporting From The Front,” hoping to inspire ideas on how to positively affect the global environment through better planning and construction.
In January, it was announced that the curators of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, taking place in 2018, would be Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell – a design team based in Dublin, where they run the award-winning firm Grafton Architects.
Both having graduated from University College Dublin’s architecture program, the pair established their respected studio in 1978 and went on to win many accolades. In 2008, Grafton Architects was granted the World Building of the Year award for the Università Luigi Bocconi in Milan.
2016 saw them win the inaugural Royal Institute of British Architects International Prize for the UTEC design, as well as overcome tough competition to design a sleek new faculty building for the prestigious London School of Economics.
Curating the 2018 Biennale is another major milestone in these Irish architects’ already stellar careers. President of the Venice Biennale Paolo Baratta has said that the duo is well equipped to carry on the important work of last year’s exhibition under Aravena.
Baratta stated that Farrell and McNamara “will continue to address the same theme but from the point of view of the quality of the public and private space, of urban space. … The curators, who are well-known for the refinement of their work, are also known for their intense didactic activity, and their ability to involve and fascinate new generations.”