The Venice Architecture Biennale founded in 1980, takes place every two years, in even-numbered years and runs from late April until November.

Also known as the International Architecture Exhibition, it is a relatively new event; first organised in 1980. However, a precursor of the current Architecture exhibition first appeared in 1975, when three exhibitions were organised in the Magazzini del Sale on Zattere, in the Dorsoduro district.

Since the 7th Architecture Biennale in 2000, the event has grown to take place in the two main locations of the Giardini and Arsenale. From the 2016 edition, its run time has been extended and can be visited from the end of May, until the end of November.

As part of the organising Biennale Foundation: the other main exhibitions include; the original International Art Exhibition (1895), Music (1930), Cinema (the Venice Film Festival in 1932 was the first film festival in history), Theatre (1934) and the International Dance (1999).

The Foundation, was one of the driving forces to re-establish the traditional Venetian Carnival in 1979. As from 1999, they also organise the International Kids’ Carnival, with specific events for children during the carnival period.



Venice Architecture Biennale


Please Note: This post was designed not to give you a complete overview of every event held, but to give you an “idea” and “feel” of the development of the Architecture Biennale; in proposing and showcasing architectural solutions to contemporary societal, humanistic and technological issues. The event has made significant improvements in inclusivity, diversity and in the development of its educational role.

Due to Covid-19, the 2020 Event was postponed to 2021.



The main agenda of the Venice Architecture Biennale, is to propose and showcase architectural solutions to contemporary societal, humanistic, and technological issues. Although leaning towards the academic side of architecture, the Biennale also provides an opportunity for local architects around the world to present new projects. The Biennale is separated into two main sections: the permanent, national pavilions in the Biennale Gardens as well as the Arsenale, which hosts projects from numerous nations under one roof.

Within the set “theme”, contributing countries must respond to establishing a relationship, however minute; between diverse curatorial visions.

Famous architects and scholars have contributed over the years, such as Francesco Dal Co, Richard Burdett, David Chipperfield, Rem Koolhaas and Alejandro Aravena. They have led the Venice Architecture Biennale, to be one of the most prestigious architecture exhibitions in the world; a benchmark for both experts and lovers of architecture.



In 1975, the first steps towards an architecture exhibition were taken by La Biennale di Venezia; an enlargement so significant that it entailed the appointment of a new director for the Visual Arts section, Vittorio Gregotti, during the four-year presidency of Carlo Ripa di Meana (1975-1978).

It was in fact within the Visual Arts exhibition that the “A proposito del Mulino Stucky” (“About the Stucky Mill”), exhibited at the Magazzini del Sale at Zattere in the Dorsoduro district. It was organised by Vittorio Gregotti; followed by other architecture exhibitions in 1976 and 1978.


Vittorio GREGOTTI  Biennale di Architettura Anno Zero

A proposito del Mulino Stucky” – (“About the Stucky Mill”)

Venue: Magazzini del Sale at Zattere in the Dorsoduro district.



Werkbund 1907. Alle origini del design”. (“Werkbund 1907. At the origins of design”).

Il razionalismo e l’architettura in Italia durante il fascismo (1976)”. –  (“Rationalism and architecture in Italy during fascism -1976”).

Europa-America, centro storico, suburbio (1976)”. (“Europe-America, historic centre, suburbs – 1976“).

Venues: Magazzini del Sale, Ca’ Pesaro, San Lorenzo and Fondazione Cini.



Utopia e crisi dell’antinatura. Intenzioni architettoniche in Italia” – (“Utopia and crisis of the antinature. Architectural intentions in Italy).

Venue: Magazzini del Sale, Zattere.


(Below left: Entrance to the Biennale Giardini site. Below right: View over the Arsenale site).

View over the Venice Arsenale








In 1980, the Architecture department finally became independent during the four-year presidency of Giuseppe Galasso (1979-1982), who appointed Paolo Portoghesi as director. After the “Teatro del Mondo” realised by Aldo Rossi, (an ephemeral building anchored to the Punta della Dogana between 1979 and 1980); the new director organised in 1980, the 1st International Architecture Exhibition.

“The presence of the past – “La presenza del passato
Director: Paolo PORTOGHESI
27th July – 20th October 1980
Site: Corderie dell’Arsenale
President: Giuseppe Galasso

The theme “The presence of the past”, was a consideration of the so-called Postmodernist movement. This school of thought questions the Modern, with its almost mythical consideration of future, technology and geometric forms. Since present times do not seem able to offer anything new from the past, Postmodernism suggested a new synchronic vision of history, that ultimately becomes an infinite warehouse for images and suggestions; from which architects can freely draw shapes, styles and decorative elements.

This is the idea on which Portoghesi created his “Strada Novissima“, the main exhibition set up at the Corderie dell’Arsenale. It was made up of twenty facades, each designed by great architects and conceived as theatre wings for a hypothetical postmodern “street”. Beyond each facade, every architect presented a monographic display of their works.

The exhibition offered visitors a direct and tactile experience of architecture: an exhibit, as Portoghesi underlined, “with architecture, not about architecture”.

Strada Novissima, opened a very lively debate on Postmodernism, becoming a symbol of the movement itself and attracting big names among including, Frank O. Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Arata Isozaki, Robert Venturi, Franco Purini, Ricardo Bofil and Christian de Portzamparc.

Thanks to this first exhibition, the Biennale quickly became an influential protagonist within international architectural debates; thanks to its ability to draw the most renowned and high-profile contributors to Venice.

The Postmodernist movement asserted itself as a leading, internationally known approach, thanks to Strada Novissima and to the previous episode of Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mondo (an ephemeral building anchored to the Punta della Dogana between 1979 and 1980).

“The presence of the past“, also included three 20th century masters, Philip Johnson, Ignazio Gardella and Mario Ridolfi; who had the courage to follow alternative paths, that differed from modernist dictates. Also included was a special section, devoted to 73 young architects and a retrospective on Ernesto Basile.



“Project Venice” – “Progetto Venezia”

Director: Aldo ROSSI
20th July – 29th September 1985
Site: Padiglione Italia ai Giardini
Director appointed by President Paolo Portoghesi

The theme was “Project Venice“, resuming the two key concepts of the exhibition: the priority given to the moment of planning and the comparison with the Venetian landscape. “Stone Lions were awarded for the first time.


Venice Architecture BiennaleVenice Architecture Biennale






Venice Architecture Biennale - 2018 FREESPACE



Yvonne FARRELL and Shelley MCNAMARA
26 May – 25 November 2018
Venues: Arsenale and Giardini
Directors appointed by President Paolo Baratta




  • This edition’s 2018 theme “FREESPACE“, focused on the issues of space, the quality of space, open and free space. Curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara used a short text of their own, the “FREESPACE” Manifesto from June 2017; as the keynote of the Exhibition.
  • The event developed from the Central Pavilion (Giardini) to the Arsenale and included 71 participants.
  • These were joined by two Special Sections: the first, Close Encounter, meetings with remarkable projects” (16 participants), presented works that originated in a reflection on well-known buildings of the past. The second, The Practice of Teaching” (13 participants), collected projects developed as part of teaching experiences.
  • The Exhibition also included 63 National Participations (6 countries participated for the first time), 2 Special Projects, 12 Collateral Events, and a series of Meetings on Architecture”.
  • FREESPACE attracted over 275,000 visitors, on top of the 14,434 attendants of the pre-opening. Visitors under 26 years of age were 50% of the total.


  • Golden Lion for Best National Participation: Switzerland
  • Special Mention to the National Participation of Great Britain
  • Golden Lion for the best participant in the FREESPACE Exhibition to: Eduardo Souto de Moura
  • Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the FREESPACE Exhibition to: Jan de Vylder, Inge Vinck, Jo Taillieu (architecten de vylder vinck taillieu)
  • Special Mentions to two Participants in the FREESPACE Exhibition: Andra Matin, and Rahul Mehrotra (RMA Architects)
  • Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement: Kenneth Frampton



(NOTE: Due to Covid-19, the 2020 Event was postponed to 2021.)

 ” How will we live together?”

President: Roberto Cicutto – Curator: Hashim Sarkis – President of the International Jury: Kazuyo Sejima

The event opened on the 22nd May and runs to the 21nd November 2021, curated by architect and scholar Hashim Sarkis. He commented that “We need a new spatial contract. In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together”.

Hashim Sarkis, has been Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 2015. He earned a Bachelor of Architecture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a PhD in Architecture from Harvard University. He is the author and editor of several books and articles on modern architecture history and theory.

  • The International Exhibition includes 112 Participants from 46 countries, with a growing delegation from Africa, Latin America and Asia and with a wide female representation.
  • The Exhibition is organised into five sub-themes (scales): “Among Diverse Beings”, “As New Households”, “As Emerging Communities” “Across Borders” and “As One Planet”. Three are in the Arsenale and two in the Central Pavilion.
  • A part of the Exhibition is titled “How will we play together? on exhibit at Forte Marghera and open to the public; a contribution by 5 international participating architects, who have designed a project dedicated to children’s play.
  • This edition also includes a series of participations out of competition: Stations” + “Co-Habitats, research into the five scales with relative case studies developed by researchers from universities around the world.  The theme of sports, is the subject of an outdoor installation at the Giardini, titled “How will we play sport together?”
  • For the fifth consecutive year, La Biennale di Venezia and the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, presented the Special Project at the Pavilion of Applied Arts (Arsenale, Sale d’Armi A); titledThree British Mosques”.
  • 61 National Participations will bring to life the historic Pavilions in the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the historic city centre of Venice; with 3 countries taking part in the Biennale Architettura, for the first time – Grenada, Iraq and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
  • A total of 17 Collateral Events have been approved by the Curator, promoted by national and international non-profit entities and institutions. Organised in various venues in the city of Venice, they present a broad spectrum of contributions and participations, that enrich the pluralism of voices that distinguishes the Exhibition.
  • The programme of the 17th Exhibition is complemented by the Meetings on Architecture; encounters with architects, scholars and professionals from around the world. The protagonists will attempt to answer the question “How will we live together?”, in a series of dialogues focusing on the new challenges that climate change brings to architecture, on the role of public space in the recent urban uprisings, on the new techniques of reconstruction and the changing forms of collective building. On the architecture of education and the education of the architect and on the relationship between curating and architecture.
  • Over the past decade La Biennale has given increasing importance to its educational aims, maturing a strong commitment with its educational activities towards the audiences of the Exhibitions, the universities, young people and children in schools of all levels. The Architecture Biennale 2018 and the Art Biennale 2019 involved a total of 114,672 people, including 68,205 young participants in the Educational activities. For 2021, there will be a generous programme offered to individuals and groups of students, children, adults, families, professionals, companies and universities. All the initiatives pursue the active involvement of the participants and are conducted by personnel, selected and trained by La Biennale. They are divided between Guided Tours and Workshop Activities.


  • Rafael Moneo, the Spanish architect, educator, critic and theoretician; is the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Lina Bo Bardi, is the recipient of the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam.

Other awards: when information becomes available.


Venice Architecture Biennale


To fully appreciate the two main venues at the Biennale, it is recommend taking two days to explore each site.

It is possible to do justice to both sites in 2 days if you are organised, but be sure to arrive at the Arsenale promptly upon opening at 10 a.m. Bear in mind that both sites close at 6.00 pm and standard tickets are only valid for one entry. If you only have one day to visit; the Giardini is the smaller and more accessible of the two sites.




The Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 – Official Website pages: HERE

For maps of the Giardini and Arsenale sites, showing sites of national participants and accessibility, see the 2021 Pdf document: HERE


Please see my other posts in the category of “Festival-Regattas-Events”: HERE



The Venice Architecture Biennale      The Venice Architecture Biennale   The Venice Architecture Biennale   The Venice Architecture Biennale


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