News Release: Scotland+Venice: The Art of the Happenstance

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Collateral Event of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia:  The Happenstance

Scotland + Venice: WAVEparticle attracts dynamic mix of collaborators to deliver Scotland’s contribution to the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia


Scotland will be represented as a Collateral Event at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia starting in May 2018. To engage with the Biennale Architettura 2018 theme of Freespace, and to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Young People (YOYP), the project The Happenstance, begins in Scotland with an exploration of how young people in Scotland respond to Freespace.

The Happenstance brings together artists and architects to work with young people nationwide to discover what Freespace means to them and their communities, before bringing a ‘living library of ideas’ to Venice in May, 2018. The Happenstance activities will be based at Palazzo Zenobio from 26 May – 25 November 2018 (Collegio Armeno Moorat Raphael, Dorsoduro 2596, Venezia 30123).

The lead artists/curators WAVEparticle’s methodology explores what can be built through mapping connections, connecting needs and resources, and in connecting ideas of Freespace in both Scotland and Venice. Their proposal is supported and promoted by the Scotland + Venice partnership: Scottish Government, Architecture and Design Scotland, Creative Scotland, British Council and the Year of Young People/Young Scot.

Creativity in Scotland’s Built Environment

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs said:

“The Scottish Government is pleased to support Scotland’s participation as a Collateral Event in the Biennale Architettura 2018.   Our presence at this year’s Biennale Architettura offers a special opportunity during Scotland’s Year of Young People to demonstrate how our country’s young people can contribute to ideas at the most prestigious architecture event in the world.

The Happenstance project will present fine examples of creativity in Scotland’s built environment and how the public has benefited. It will also show the value that Scotland places upon the ideas of our children and young people to an international audience.”

Speaking about the Scotland + Venice programme, Jim MacDonald, Chief Executive of Architecture and Design Scotland said, “I am delighted that A&DS is again co-ordinating Scotland’s contribution to this year’s International Architecture Exhibition in Venice. With its focus on empowering young people through design, we are all very excited by a project which will not only enrich the Biennale but also engage audiences across Scotland through a celebration of the next generation.”

Live situations where things happen

Announcing their participation at the Biennale Architettura 2018, Peter McCaughey of WAVEparticle, said, “Scotland +Venice offers a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and tools from Scottish culture around open space and Freespace, both in the format of an exhibition but, more importantly, in the format of live workshops and discussions. The Happenstance will be focussed on the event nature of live situations where things happen – like the tradition of Speakers’ Corner, it is a place to take a stance, to present a proposition, to articulate an idea on the theme of Freespace.

Helena Ward, Creative Industries Manager at Creative Scotland, said: “Central to The Happenstance project is the opportunity for children and young people to be involved at every level in re-imagining and improving our public places and spaces.  Through WAVEparticle’s inspiring and creative community led approach, this project promises playful and insightful new perspectives of our public spaces.”

Sarah Mann, Commissioner of the British Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2018,  Director for Architecture Design Fashion, British Council, said; “We are delighted that The Happenstance will be taking place as a collateral event in Venice this year. The project showcases how collaborative practice in Scotland is putting young people at the centre of building their future. We are excited that the project will use the international audiences which gather in Venice as an opportunity to test ideas and gather momentum around the central theme of Freespace.”

At the heart of the project is the possibility for young people to re-occupy and improve public places and spaces. In parallel, the project encourages everyone into a vital relationship with the built environment, using play as an active agent within the process of rethinking and reclaiming Freespace.

The Happenstance Collaborators

The Happenstance collaborators: the team selected by WAVEparticle are experts in the art of building Freespace and each partner has been asked to select examples of their best practice for exhibition in Venice.

Each partner will come to Venice to demonstrate these approaches in a series of workshops, talks, outdoor film screenings and live events. The team includes artists Brian Hartley, Ruby Pester & Nadia Rossi, Tassy Thompson, Emily Speed, Francis Thorburn, Daniele Sambo, Hannah Brackston, architects Fergus Purdie, (Fergus Purdie Architects), Lee Ivett & Ambrose Gillick (Baxendale), Graham Ross (Austin-Smith:Lord), Paul Stallan & Keri Monaghan (Stallan-Brand), designers Alberto Lago and Neil McGuire, and film-maker Basharat Khan.


The project, beginning in Scotland in early 2018, before participating in the Biennale Architettura 2018, will bring back learning to Scotland in the latter half of the year.


About the 16th International Architecture Exhibition


Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are the curators of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, that will take place from May 26th to November 25th 2018 (Preview May 24th and 25th) in the Giardini and the Arsenale, and around other venues in Venice. The Biennale Architettura 2018 will be titled Freespace, a word which describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.

With the theme of Freespace, the Biennale Architettura 2018 will present for public scrutiny examples, proposals, elements – built or unbuilt – of work that exemplifies essential qualities of architecture which include the modulation, richness and materiality of surface; the orchestration and sequencing of movement, revealing the embodied power and beauty of architecture.

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Scotland + Venice: The Happenstance

A Living Library of Ideas. A Workshop of Tools. A City of Propositions. Scotland's contribution to Biennale Architettura 2018, Venice.

The Happenstance: Dispatch 6

Play: Brian Hartley. Play as a spontaneous and creative process, and how it opens vital conversations and actions.

The Happenstance: Dispatch 11

The Happenstance: a Lively Scottish-Venetian freespace: Phineas Harper. The engagement of the Venetians to the “open to all” of The Happenstance.

The Happenstance: Dispatch 10

A Conversation, a Workshop and Afterwards: Elizabeth Murphy and Emily Speed. Teams are able to make something much bigger, layered and profound.

The Happenstance: Dispatch 9

Participatory Practice: Ian Gilzean. How participation and community empowerment inspires people to realise their creativity and sense of ownership.

The Happenstance: Dispatch 7

Tools of the Trade: Peter McCaughey. A focus on five principal tools, of the many tools and tactics used.

The Happenstance: Dispatch 5

Venice / Local Context: Alberto Lago. How the memory of The Happenstance is still alive today in the minds of the Venetian people.

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