WETLANDS, UAE exhibition at Venice Biennale 2021 - Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale 2021.

WETLANDS, UAE exhibition at Venice Biennale 2021 – Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale 2021.

Architecture – The Golden  Lion for  Best  National  Participation at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale goes to the United  Arab  Emirates for the WETLANDS exhibition curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. On show a large-scale prototype structure created from an innovative, environmentally friendly cement made of MGO, a recycled industrial waste brine that could reduce the climate impact of the construction industry. 

WETLANDS, UAE exhibition at Venice Biennale 2021 - Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale 2021.

Created from recycled industrial waste brine, the MgO cement has been hand-cast into organic shapes, recalling the UAE’s traditional coral-built houses. Forming a hand-built 7x5m prototype structure accompanied by large-scale images created by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi of the UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas – salt flats -, which inspired the research process.

A  bold experiment which encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production at both the local and global scales, and opens to new construction possibilities between craft and high technology.” Says the international jury, chaired by Kazuyo  Sejima.

WETLANDS, UAE exhibition at Venice Biennale 2021 - Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale 2021.

The prototype is 2.7m tall and 7m x 5m wide on its exterior, creating a walkable interior space the size of an average room, 2.5m x 5m. The structure is formed from up to 3000 modules made of MgO-based cement designed by the curators Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto.

WETLANDS, UAE exhibition at Venice Biennale 2021 - Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale 2021.

The curators worked with specialists at the New York University Abu Dhabi’s Amber Lab, the American University of Sharjah’s Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences and the University of Tokyo’s Obuchi Lab and Sato Lab. Together they developed the chemical formula for the cement and used advanced digital engineering technology to formulate a viable structure inspired by the concept of “future vernacular” architecture.

The exhibition also includes a 3-minute soundtrack capturing the story of the sabkhas, the desalination process that creates brine and the research journey.

WETLANDS, UAE exhibition at Venice Biennale 2021 - Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale 2021.

All photos: courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.

WETLANDS, UAE exhibition at Venice Biennale 2021 - Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale 2021.