Venice Architecture Biennale Opens this week This exclusive interview is with curator Lesley Lokko She explains her reasons for placing Africa The festival’s heart for the first year.
This year’s edition, entitled Laboratory of the Future will feature a variety of interpretations and displays on themes such as decolonisation and carbonisation throughout the city of Venice.
Many of these will be examined through the lens of Africa – the continent with the world’s youngest population – which Lokko has deliberately placed at the heart of the festival for the first time.
Ghanaian-Scottish architectural firm Lokko told Dezeen.
“Africa’s unique context, which is both richly challenging and richly creative, means it’s a powerful place from which to examine the issues that will dominate the next century – climate change, societal change, demographic change, new forms of governance, explosive urbanity.”
Lokko was the first African of African descent who curated the Venice Architecture Biennale, This began in 1980. Her work is dominated by themes of cultural and racial identities.
In putting Africa on the front burner, she hopes to increase diversity at this event, the most important in architecture. More than half of the 89 participants in the biennale this year are from Africa or its diaspora.
The Venice Architecture Biennale was always Eurocentric. Just one-third (2021) of the participants will be from outside Europe or the USA. prompting calls for greater diversity.
It’s difficult to achieve equality of resources without equal access.
Among the participants at the main 2023 exhibition curated by Lokko are Pritzker Architecture Prize winner and Burkinabé-German architect Diébédo Francis KéréSouth African architect Sumayya VallyGhanaian and British architect David Adjaye Kenyan Architecture Studio Cave_Bureau.
Meanwhile, this year’s British Pavilion curators Jayden Ali is one of the many architects, including Meneesha Kelay, Joseph Henry, Sumitra Upham and others, who want to bring attention to the need for inclusive architecture.
Lokko stated that achieving such a drastic improvement in the diversity of our society has been difficult.
She said, “Diversity has a price.”
It’s difficult to attend a party without equal resources. She explained that a lot of energy, passion and effort went into securing the support. This is often unseen.
It is important that her teams in Accra’s capital have visas. In a small excerpt of an email, Lokko stated tweeted by Guardian architecture critic Olly Wainwright that they had been denied entry, with the Italian government accusing her of trying to bring “non-essential young men” into Europe.
She said, in the excerpt shared by Wainwright: “The Italian government has denied them all visas.”
“The Biennale did everything they could to assist,” she added.
“This year’s themes are very emotional and emotive”
Lokko’s aim for the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, according to her, is to reflect upon the “unpredictability”, of our turbulent time and to share solutions.
All futures are unpredictable. Lokko: “We try to anticipate the future.”
“It’s in that sense that I call this exhibition a ‘laboratory’ — not the place of scientific, precise experimentation, but the messy, passionate, argumentative space of deeply human enquiry,” continued Lokko.
“We are not aiming for a ChatGTP statement that is grammatically and politically tidy – rather the opposite. A show that shows the triumphs and flaws of human endeavor.
Speaking of ChatGTP, an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, Lokko added that she was curious yet grateful to see that these technologies have not infiltrated this year’s event – despite them making their presence known in the creative industries today.
“I believe this year’s theme was very emotional and emotional. Not the kind of place where AI can easily thrive,” she said. “Thankfully.”
The majority of exhibits is digital and drawn
The event’s diversity has been improved, but the focus this year is also on sustainability.
According to the Venice Architecture Biennale organizers, the event will aim for carbon neutrality by aligning with the PAS2060 standard, currently the most widely recognized benchmark for carbon zero.
Organisers have stated that they are working to reduce emissions within their control, and offset any remaining emissions through the purchase of certified carbon credits.
This meant that Lokko curated her exhibit to be as “light-handed” as possible.
She said that the majority of her exhibits were digital and drawn.
We worked hard to minimize the impact of the artifacts and models by having them made locally. This reduced shipping costs and the number of teams needed in Venice for installation.
Lokko is a novelist and academic who also writes. revealed as curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale for 2023 in December 2021. This is only the third female to hold the role.
Lokko said at the time: “Speaking on behalf of the youngest continent on the planet, I thank President Cicutto as well as the entire team behind La Biennale di Venezia, for their bold, courageous choice.”
In reflecting on her involvement in the event, and its relevance to the industry today, she stated that the platform remains “vital”.
Lokko concluded, “At a moment when everything seems precarious, it is vital that we have moments, spaces and platforms like this.”
She continued, “Events and their outcomes unfold in a way that is often only predictable with hindsight.”
“But there are other kinds of events – and large-scale exhibitions like La Biennale di Venezia are good examples – where, in full understanding of that unpredictability, curious people come together to share their ideas of what the future should be, what we should hope for, and how to achieve those hopes.”
Debra Hurford Brown created the portrait of Lokko.
Dezeen provides live coverage of the event. Venice Architecture BiennaleSee the, which will take place between 20 May and 26 November 2023. See Dezeen Events Guide For all the information you need about the event and a list of other design and architecture events around the world, please visit the website.