Climate, community and collaboration: Scotland in Venice

People watching the A Fragile Correspondence trailer at the La Biennale di Venezia exhibition space.
Published: 30/05/2023

(May 2023) Jim MacDonald, CEO of Architecture and Design Scotland, explored this year’s La Biennale di Venezia and in this blog he reflects on his experience of the opening week.

Navigating Venice involves frequent wrong turns before finding something amazing. As with the city, so with the Architecture Biennale, whose scale is daunting but within which there is much to excite and inspire.

Curator Lesley Lokko’s theme for this year’s 18th International Architecture Exhibition is the Laboratory of the Future and the responses at La Biennale show unbounded appetite for experimentation. With a focus on solving big problems for people and planet, content is wide-ranging, linked by a common concern for climate, community and finding new ways of living although it must be said that actual architecture is often absent.

A particular focus this year is the dispersal and exploitation of both people and environments.

A view of the canal from the a Fragile Correspondence exhibition space with the bridge visible.
A view of the Canal from the A Fragile Correspondence exhibition space.

Brazil contrasts the disregard for the earth of successive colonisers with the sustainable but threatened approaches of remaining indigenous peoples. The Czech pavilion addresses the exploitative nature of the architecture profession and proposes a new model of collaborative practice. Many focus on the treatment of the marginalised, highlighting how their exploitation mirrors that of the environment that we all depend on and almost everyone agrees that change means collaboration and respect for the voices of those who often go unheard.

Scotland’s contribution is very much in this vein. A Fragile Correspondence, delivered by the Architecture Fringe, -ism magazine and /other takes as its theme the relationship between language and landscape. It explores what places mean to the communities that inhabit them, how they are shaped and what lessons we can draw from this. The clear message is that designing our future relies on deep understanding of past and present alongside a willingness to listen to all – something that resonates strongly with the Place Principle that we are working to embed here in Scotland.

Also drawing on themes of landscape, language, and community, is the presentation by Dualchas Architects in the Arsenale, a beautiful showcase for the Isle of Skye, its history and the practice’s part in its renaissance.

All of this left me reflecting on how the themes of climate, community, and collaboration that Scotland has explored and presented across recent Biennale, now feature more broadly. To have the opportunity to engage with others’ perspectives on these themes is what events like the International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia are all about and the conversations that flow beyond the confines of the exhibition are what bring enduring value.

So, here’s to more getting lost in ideas and conversations that reveal new and creative ways of using design to improve the lot of planet, place, and people.

Scotland + Venice

Learn more about the creative team behind A Fragile Correspondence by visiting the Scotland + Venice website.

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