Venice Architecture Biennale

Themes, works and protagonists of the contemporary architecture


The Venice Biennale of Architecture history officially began in 1980 with the 1st International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, directed by Paul Portuguese.

During the previous decade, architecture had begun to make way inside the Visual Arts sector: the success of these first editions of the Architecture Biennale of Venice led to the establishment of a new industry dedicated to it.

Today, the International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale is a flagship event, held every two years, alternating with the International Art Exhibition.

Are you interested in knowing more about all the editions of the Venice Biennale of Architecture? If your answer is yes, then read the following text and discover the themes, the works and the amazing artists that were the protagonists of one of the most famous events in Venice through the years!

The Architecture Biennale

1st Biennale of Architecture: The Presence of the Past

27.07 - 20.10.1980

Corderie of the Arsenal

The theme of the first Venice Biennale of Architecture is a reflection of the so-called postmodern movement. With its myths related to new technology and the purity of geometric shapes, Postmodernism questions Modern Art suggesting a new vision of history, to which architects can draw on to recover shapes, styles and decorative elements.

The Strada Novissima –the main exhibition of Architecture at the Biennale in Venice, open to the public for the first time - offers visitors a tactile experience and direct contact with architecture: consisting of twenty facades designed as theatrical scenes of a hypothetical ‘strada’ of postmodern buildings, the Strada Novissima became the starting point for a lively debate on postmodernism. The 1st Venice Biennale Architecture Exhibition is catapulted among the most important events of world architecture.

The main exhibition is joined by the monographs of the many architects who contributed to the realization of the Strada Novissima - names like Rem Koolhaas, Christian de Portzamparci and Frank O. Gehry.

The 1st 1980 Venice Biennale of Architecture Exhibition also offers a tribute to three masters of the 20th century - Philip Johnson, Ignazio Gardella and Mario Ridolfi - a section dedicated to young architects and a retrospective on Ernesto Basile.


2nd Biennale of Architecture: Architecture in Islamic Countries

20.11.1981 - 6.01.1982

Italian Pavilion at the Biennale Gardens

The 2nd Exhibition of Architecture at the Biennale in Venice presents an overview on Architecture of Islamic Countries since World War II. Anticipating issues that were to become very topical in the following years, the Biennale of of architettura international architecture exhibition provides an opportunity for dialogue and exchange between East and West, with reflections on the regions between India and Morocco.

Islamic architecture in contrast to the modernist canons gives attention to the environmental context, the spiritual component and the social function of its architecture: the International Exhibition of Architecture at the Biennale in Venice, Italy presents a series of projects in which local traditions coexist with the most advanced construction technologies, drifting along the global influence that Islamic culture has had in the West since the 19th century.

The second Venice Architecture Biennale also developed the monographic exhibitions dedicated to known figures who had already worked with Islamic architecture, such as Fernand Pouillon and Louis Kahn.


3rd Biennale of Architecture: Venice Project

20.07 - 29.09.1985

Italian Pavilion in the Biennale Gardens

Already the title summarized the two themes of the 3rd International Exhibition - Venice Architecture, Biennale: the priorities of the conceptual moment and the comparison with the Venetian context. Well-known and emerging architects presented ideas and plans for the redevelopment or conversion of some areas of Venice and its hinterland.

In an ancient city and ‘static’ like Venice, the chance to reinvent urban space became a challenge for many architects. In addition to Venice, the participants of this charming Biennale di Venezia Architettura also compared some areas of Veneto and Friuli. The prestigious awards of the Venice Architecture Biennale history in 1985 were awarded by an international jury to the best ideas in the race.

The number of accessions, the broad youth participation and attention around this original theme and wide-ranging effort is evidence of the level of quality achieved by the Architecture Sector of the Biennale and its exhibitions.


4th Biennial of Architecture: Hendrik Petrus Berlage. Drawings

18.07 - 28.09.1986

Farsetti Villa in Santa Maria di Sala (VE)

For the first time the theme of the Biennale in Venice Exhibitions revolves around a single architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage (Amsterdam, 1865-1934), presenting the entire collection of drawings by the Dutch master in an exhibition at Villa Farsetti.

The opening of the Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy demonstrated the desire for greater involvement of the territory in exhibitions, but also the need to find alternative places to those of the Biennale.

Through the figure of Berlage, the program of the Architecture Biennale in Venice continued the criticism of the Modern movement, presenting the relationship between contemporary architecture and the past. Berlage develops a thought in total autonomy with respect to the trends of the 20th century: its utopian compositions combined art, architecture, history and space. The result are true works of art as the home for Beethoven, Wagner's theatre, the mausoleum dedicated to Lenin on Red Square and the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. After the Architecture Biennale of Venice, the story of Berlage moved to Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin for Europe to rediscover the work of this great master.


5th International Architecture Exhibition

8.09 - 6.10.1991

Locations: Italy Pavilion, national pavilions in the Biennale Gardens, Arsenal Corderie

At the 5th Biennale of Architecture: the Italian Pavilion presented forty architects as a symbol of the 90s, including Aulenti, Fuksas, De Carlo, Piano and Sottsass, James Stirling realizes the Pavilion of the Book, the Corderie dell’Arsenale houses an international exhibition with 43 schools of architecture.


6th Biennale of Architecture: Sensors of the future. The architect as seismograph

15.09 - 17.11.1996

Locations: Italy Pavilion, national pavilions at the Biennale Gardens

Under the direction of the Austrian architect Hans Hollein, the 6th Biennial of Architecture was housed again in the national pavilions.

The main exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia Architettura in the Italian Pavilion explored the figure of the architect and his ability to capture the vibrations of the present reality, projecting them into the future. In the 90s, the architect has established itself as a stand-alone figure that challenged the idea of urban space handed down from the past, regardless of movements or classifications.

Alongside big names such as O. Gehry, Nouvel, Piano, Eisenman, Foster, Isozaki, Utzon, Fuksas and Moneo, the exhibition 'Emerging Voices' gathered the young hopefuls ofworld architecture, while the retrospective ‘Radicals’ presented some examples of more radical urban architecture from the late 50s to the beginning of the 70s.

Ignazio Gardella, Philip Johnson and Oscar Niemeyer receive the first Golden Lion for lifetime achievement in the history of the International Architecture Exhibition in Venice Biennale.


7th Biennale of Architecture: Less Aesthetics, More Ethics

18.06 - 29.10.2000

Arsenale and Biennale Gardens

With 'Less Aesthetics, More Ethics' the Venice Biennale Collateral Exhibitions stretches of a few months, leaving the setting of previous exhibitions. Fuksas’s Biennale of Architecture develops as a survey to 360° on the contemporary city, especially on mega-cities of the XXI century

Compared with the aesthetics the 7th Venice Architecture Biennale, Arsenale and Gardens, favours the search for new solutions to address the ethical challenges posed by reality. Taking into account the growth of various urban realities from the 90s onwards, the 7th International Biennale Venice Exhibitions focuses on three main themes: environment, as object and subject of reflection; Social, attention to urban transformations; Technology, information, communication, network, virtual.

Reworking the perspective of the Strada Novissima, at the Corderie dell’Arsenale a 300 meters long stage is installed housing a giant screen projecting projections of contemporary megalopolis: Bogota, Buenos Aires, Bucharest, Budapest, Mexico City, New Delhi, Paris, Sao Paulo, Quito, Cairo, Athens and Montreal.

The Italian Pavilion of the 7th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale is home to architects, artists and photographers who have explored the different evolutions of the metropolis.


8th Biennale of Architecture: Next

8.09 - 3.11.2002

Arsenale and Biennale Gardens

Responding to the question ‘What will the architecture of the future be like?’: This is the 8th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice Biennial, an exhibition that seeks to 'predict' the future of architecture and the geographical areas that will host the most innovative projects starting with thestudies and physical models of the designers, as well as the materials used.

Its attention to materials becomes one of the Venice Architecture Biennale highlights. In addition to models and drawings, architects are also invited to exhibit materials such as brick, glass, metal, to physically witness the impact they have on the space of architecture.

The 8th Architecture Biennale in Venice at the Gardens and the Arsenal, is divided into several sections - Residential, Museums, Interchange, Training, City of Towers, Jobs, Shopping, Entertainment, Church and State, urban master-plans, Italy - among them ‘City of Towers’ stands out. In here some of the famous architects in the world are invited to present a model of a 100 meters high skyscraper in 1:100 scale.

In particular, the Italian Pavilion sets out a series of projects aimed at changing the face of some Italian areas, and the U.S. pavilion with photographs of September 11 and proposals for the new building on Ground Zero.


9th Biennale of Architecture: Metamorph

12.09 - 7.11.2004

Arsenale and Biennale Gardens

The metamorphosis in architecture was motivated and facilitated by new technologies and new materials. In the 9th Venice Biennial of Architecture history and tradition are challenged by contemporary art, a moment of encounter and relationship between different elements with continuous surfaces, curves and flexible elements that transform the buildings.

The 9th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale managed to create a path in constant metamorphosis which, thanks to special modular structures, gives the impression that each section of the exhibition slips naturally into the next.

The Architecture Biennale Arsenale in Venice is divided into seven sections: Transformations, Topography, Artificial Nature, Surface, Atmosphere, The Harrowing of the city and Hyper-Projects.

In the Italian Pavilion the viewer can experience first-hand the reality of evolutions and changes through the combined work of photographers and architects who develop the concept of metamorphosis and its relationship with space and architecture. In addition, the Venice Biennale of Architecture at the Pavilions – Italian in 2004 presented three solo exhibitions - Dieste, Leonidov and Eisenman - and shots of ten Italian photographers who, working with historians and critics of architecture, implement an investigation into the last 50 years of Italian architecture.


10th Biennale of Architecture: City. Architecture and Society

12.09 - 7.11.2006

Arsenale, Biennale Gardens. Collateral Section in Palermo

The 10th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice Biennale focuses on the issue of so-called ‘global cities’ - population greater than 3-4 million inhabitants - and their problems: migration, growth, mobility and sustainable development. Analysing such crucial issues in contemporary society, the Architecture Venice exhibitions investigate the role of architects and architecture itself indemocratic and sustainable urban contexts, linking them to actions of government and social cohesion.

Through films, photographs and three-dimensional graphics, the Architecture Biennale of Venice presents the experiences of 16 local major cities: Shanghai, Mumbai and Tokyo (Asia), Caracas, Mexico City, Bogota, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles and New York (America), Johannesburg, Cairo and Istanbul (Africa and the Mediterranean area), London, Barcelona, Berlin and Milan-Turin (Europe).

At the Venice Biennale in 2006 two sections dedicated to South Italy were proposed: City of Stone at the Artiglierie of the Arsenal and Città-Porto in Palermo.


11th Biennale of Architecture: Out There: Architecture Beyond Building

14.09 - 23.11.2008

Arsenale and the Biennale Gardens

The 11th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale addressed some of the central themes of our society through architecture 'liberated' from the buildings. In their place, site-specific installations, visions and experiments help to better understand the modern world. The Biennale of Architecture in 2008 opened the concept of architecture in the way we think and talk about buildings and the ways to represent and realize them: architecture is what can make us feel 'at home' in the world.

The Corderie dell’Arsenale host 'Installations', the Artiglierie at the Arsenal welcome ‘Uneternal City. Thirty years from Rome interrupted’, twelve design visions of Rome and its suburbs, accompanied by the work of 50 students who participated in the competition EveryVille 2008.

At the 11th Architecture Biennale - the Italian Pavilion offers a survey of experimental architecture, ‘Experimental Architecture’, through monographs of architects who have based their work on the experiment: Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron, Morphosis, Hadid, Koolhaas and Himmelb(l)au.


12th Architecture Biennale: People meet in architecture

29.08 - 22.11.2010

Arsenale and Bienniale Gardens

The 12th International Architecture Exhibition of Venice Biennale ‘People meet in architecture’ has been able to fully realize the theme expressed in the title. Staged in a unique exhibition from the Central Pavilion to the Giardini of the Arsenal, the Biennale of Architecture in 2010 sees the participation of firms, architects, engineers and artists from all over the world that seize this opportunity to experience the manifold possibilities of architecture and its plurality of approaches. Each participant of this year's Biennale of Architecture had the ability to manage their own exhibition space and offer a personal interpretation of the theme through unknown scenarios of interaction between environment and society.

Since its inauguration, the 2010 Architecture Biennale is enjoying unprecedented success: during the twelve weeks of opening it is visited by over 170 801 visitors, staying at the top of the most visited Italian exhibitions for the entire period.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff