Saturday, September 22, 2012

Venice Takeaway

Once my friends learnt I was going to be living in Venice for five weeks after inital expressions of envy, they asked what exactly it was I was going to be doing here. It wasn't going to be all play.

The British Pavilion (Source)

I am working as a Steward at the British Pavilion, for the first month of the three month long Venice Architectural Biennale. I grabbed the chance to escape from the gloom of mulling over my employment prospects, if only briefly, and viewed it as an opportunity to meet new people, gain some new skills and to add some relevant work experience to my CV. I get a small stipend for the month, so I was able to pay for my rent, food and flights. Paid work experience is a rare thing, so I'm very grateful to be here, working in a warm climate and at an internationally reknowned Biennale.

The Architecture Biennale follows the same framework as the Art Biennale with the national pavilions presenting individual exhibitions in the centre of Venice. The British Council curate and organise an exhibition in the British Pavilion. The Council commissioned architects, designers and engineers to put together exhibitions for the British Pavilion. This year they held an open competition for architects and those working in related fields to submit a proposal that would "change British architecture". Ten projects in total out of 118 submissions were selected, and these ten individuals, or groups, went around the world to "takeaway" ideas that will hopefully contribute to changing British architecture beyond the life of the exhibition.

The 13th International Architecture Exhibition, directed by David Chipperfield and titled Common Ground, is open to the public from 29th August to 25th November 2012.


The theme of the British Pavillion, co-ordinated by the British Council is 'Venice Takeaway'. Venice Takeaway presents the work of ten architectural teams that have travelled the world in search of imaginative responses to universal issues. Venice Takeaway charts their course in Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand and the USA and demonstrates the creative potential of sharing ideas across borders.

The Vernissage period of the Biennale (the preview period for Press, etc) was the most exhausting part of the work so far. We were on our feet answering questions and taking particular care to ensure that the exhibits were not damaged by the heavy flow of traffic within the Pavilion. We had over 6,000 visitors to our Pavilion over those four days.

Out of the ten exhibits I have a few particular favourites -

Darryl Chen's New [Socialist] Village

Forum for Alternative Belfast: International Bauausstellung Belfast

aberrant architecture: Animating Education: Learning from Rio de Janerio

Ross Anderson and Anna Gibb: Paper Architecture

The days are long, but I've encountered some real characters over the weeks. At the end of the day, there's always a cool glass of prosecco to look forward to.

We update our Stewards at the Venice Takeaway blog frequently too, to keep people up to date, you can find it here.


  1. I think what you're doing is fabulous, Zoe. I've always dreamed of living & working in a different city (someday...)
    I'll admit I don't understand all of this but I'll be following your updates keenly.

  2. Wow this looks fantastic. The exhibitions look incredibly interesting, and right up my street. I'm so tempted to give Venice a go someday :)