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Arup collaborating with the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia

Zaida España Zaida España Europe Press Office
23 May 2018

Arup continues to strengthen its collaboration with Biennale Architettura, the world’s leading architecture exhibition, working alongside curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara and participants to showcase a range of projects exploring this year’s concept of public space.

This year’s Biennale Architettura, a scene-setting design event, will build on the idea of FREESPACE, described by Irish curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara as “a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself”.

Building on years of design and engineering experience, Arup has worked together with the curators and participants to consult on a range of built environment projects, including installations for the likes of SANAA and Alison Brooks, as well as the national pavilions of Ireland, Croatia and the USA.

Alison Brooks Architects - ReCasting, 2018 - CNC milled Poplar plywood, carbon steel screws, timber sealant, mirrors Alison Brooks Architects - ReCasting, 2018 - CNC milled Poplar plywood, carbon steel screws, timber sealant, mirrors
ReCasting is Alison Brooks Architects' installation at the Biennale Architettura. Photo by: Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Biennale Architettura is singularly the most important architectural exhibition in the world and provides a unique opportunity for all to engage in the current architecture agenda: where is the humanity in design today and how does it matter? Our colleagues globally have engaged in this topic as collaborators. For anyone looking for current thinking in this area from the individual to the global level, Venice is the place to go. ” Robin Lee Rory McGowan Director

Photo by: Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Among other projects, Arup lighting specialists worked with the curators Farrell and McNamara to explore the possibility of displaying the exhibitions in the Corderie space using only Venice’s natural light with the help of daylight simulations, visualisations and calculations. With the use of game engine technology and bespoke coding, they also produced an interactive VR model to show how the pieces would be displayed and affected by the changing natural light cycles throughout the solar year.

Arup is also assisting with the ‘Dimensions of Citizenship’ pavilion for the 2018 US Pavilion where we are providing lighting and audiovisual consulting services.


Another highlight is the collaboration with the V&A museum to transport a large fragment of the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate to the Biennale as part of the special project ‘A Ruin In Reverse’, jointly organised by La Biennale di Venezia and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Designed by Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972, Robin Hood Gardens became an internationally recognised example of New Brutalism and now controversially faces demolition.

In Venice, the pre-cast concrete elements of Robin Hood Gardens will be reconstructed on a scaffold based-enclosure to allow visitors to climb up and experience “the street in the sky”. Arup, the original structural engineers for Smithson’s project, is providing engineering advice and support on how to reconstruct and display these large concrete elements, surveying the installation with the help of our archive drawings.

Venice will offer the greatest context for Arup’s ongoing work in the city. After being closed to the public for more than 500 years, visitors will be looking to the Procuratie Vecchie for an insight into some of the engineering and design solutions we helped David Chipperfield Architects deliver during the building’s major heritage restoration. Once it opens, the building will become a leading venue for art exhibitions, installations and seminars.

The 16th International Architecture Exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday 26 May to Sunday 25 November 2018.