What to see around Venice during the Architecture Biennale

The curated show by Hashim Sarkis and the National Pavilions at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale are complemented by more events across town. Here, we pick three installations, which celebrate community and sustainability 

The Majlis on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice
The Majlis on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Photography: Simone Padovani
(Image credit: Simone Padovani)

So, you've done the main show at the Arsenale and the Central Pavilion, and you've toured the National Pavilions; what next? A number of events beyond the main, centrally curated programme for Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 await. Complementing Hashim Sarkis' theme ‘How Will We Live Together?' with independent exhibitions across Venice, contributors from all over the world have gathered in the beautiful Italian city to celebrate architecture while expanding the architectural debate beyond the official La Biennale virtual and physical folds. Here is our pick of three installations, which echo the main show's themes on notions of coming together, sustainability and community. 

The Majlis, San Giorgio Maggiore

Inside the Majlis, a round open dome structure with a rug and cube chairs inside, an installation in Venice dedicated to the idea of coming together

(Image credit: Simone Padovani)

A new bamboo installation has appeared in the grounds of the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice for the 2021 Architecture Biennale. The structure, set within green gardens and spearheaded by the Caravane Earth Foundation, is the Majlis, a piece dedicated to the notion of coming together. ‘Majlis’ is a word that originated in Pre-Islamic Arabia, meaning ‘council' or ‘gathering place', explain the creators, architects Simón Vélez and Stefana Simic. Wrapped in textiles woven in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco by a women’s collective from Ain Leuh, and the local Boujad Tribe, the installation celebrates craftsmanship and the exchange between East and West. 

Rolex Pavilion, Giardini

Models of Mariam Kamara's Niamey centre at the Rolex Pavilion for 2021 Venice architecture biennale

(Image credit: Simone Padovani)

The Rolex Pavilion, the structure dedicated to the biennale's long-standing exclusive partner and official timepiece for the event, sits in the Giardini. While Rolex's formal relationship with the biennale is well known and established, this is not a National Pavilion like those around it. Making its own mark, it hosts an exhibition focusing on Atelier Masomi, and the studio founder Mariam Kamara’s plans for a cultural centre in Niamey, Niger. Containing renders, drawings and models from the project, the show springs from the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, as part of which leading architect David Adjaye mentored Kamara during 2018 and 2019. ‘It will feature sustainable and traditional methods of building to forge a new kind of architecture that at the same time reflects an African identity,’ says Rolex. 

Time Space Existence, Palazzo Mora and Palazzo Bembo

Heniquez architects, presenting its 'innovative development model creating housing for Iranian refugees

(Image credit: TBC)

The ‘Time Space Existence' show returns to Venice, having established itself as a staple of the architecture biennale’s collateral events list. Presenting a range of projects by architects from across the globe, the show includes work by Canadian practice Henriquez Partners, which is presenting its ‘innovative development model creating housing for Iranian refugees, funded by time-share condominiums for American tourists’ (pictured here). Further participants include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Adrian Parr, and Lund University.

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).