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Saudi Arabia and Lebanon are Set to Make Their Venice Biennale Debut

Hala Younes photographed by Sama Rawadi for Vogue Arabia, April 2018.

“I’ve been an architecture professor for 15 years, and I always tell my students: It is not enough that you are talented artists and it’s not enough that you create beautiful designs. It doesn’t count unless it respects the environment,” says Hala Younes, an assistant professor of architecture at the Lebanese American University (LAU). That’s the very idea behind “The Place that Remains”, an exhibition curated by Younes that which will be on display at Lebanon’s first-ever pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The theme of this year’s annual architecture event is “FreeSpace”.

Younes, who grew up in a family of architects, aims to shed light on the potential of Lebanon’s unbuilt territory, with a main focus on Nahr Beirut (Beirut River) and its watershed. “The exhibition will highlight the un-built land, their cultural characteristics, and their prospects in improving the constructed environment and its living conditions as well as the architect’s role in the construction process and the resulting impact on the culture of the land,” said Younes, who decided to pursue architecture after her father told her it wasn’t “suitable” for women.

“The purpose of the exhibition is to create knowledge and awareness on the status of the land. We are counting on developing knowledge of the territory in Lebanese society in order to become familiar with it and defend its value because our heritage is not only architectural but also geographical and landscaped,” she adds.

A house designed by Hala Younes, overlooking the picturesque surroundings of Northern Lebanon. Photographed by Sama Rawadi for Vogue Arabia, April 2018.

The exhibition is built around a 3D map, historical photographs of Lebanon, and video surveillance, and will feature the works of six Lebanese photographers handpicked by the curator and professors from Notre Dame University (NDU), the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA), and the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK).

“The participation of Lebanon for the first time at the Venice Biennale of Architecture is very important and will have a double impact. It will stimulate the academic debate on urbanism and will magnify the Lebanese architects’ views and contribution on the key topic of the quality of public space,” said H.E. Ambassador Marotti, the Italian ambassador to Lebanon.

Another Arab country to make its Venice Biennale debut is Saudi Arabia. The kingdom’s pavilion, titled “Spaces in Between” was commissioned by the Misk Art Institute and curated by Jawaher Al-Sudairy and Dr. Sumaya Al-Solaiman. It will showcase works by Saudi architects Abdulrahman and Turki Gazzaz.

The Biennale Architettura 2018: 16th International Architecture Exhibition will take place in Venice from May 26 to November 25 2018.

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