Brazilian Pavilion Wins Golden Lion at 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale

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The Brazilian Pavilion has been announced as the recipient of the Eighteenth Venice Architecture Biennale’s prestigious Golden Lion for Best National Participation. The prizewinning exhibition, “Terra” (Earth), was curated by architects Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares. The prize jury commended the pair for “a research exhibition and architectural intervention that center the philosophies and imaginaries of indigenous and black population towards modes of reparation.”

“We are very happy to have received this opportunity, inspired by Lesley Lokko [curator of this year’s Biennale], to present Brazil as a diasporic territory, with great ancestral contributions by the Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous communities,” said Matos and Tavares. “We believe that those are the technologies that must form part of the solutions to create a different and more egalitarian future for humanity and to restore and protect our natural world.”

Terra” was broken into two separate sections, with both the modernist pavilion’s galleries carpeted in earth, on which stood rammed-earth plinths. The first segment, “De-colonizing the Canon,” celebrated the heritage, design, and landscape of the Indigenous people marginalized and displaced in the mid-twentieth century during the building of Brasília, the nation’s Oscar Niemeyer–designed capital, while the second, “Places of Origin, Archaeologies of the Future,” was themed around historical and largely Indigenous-built structures around Brazil, including the Iauaretê waterfall of the Tukano, Arawak, and Maku; and terreiros, or plazas, in Salvador.

DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency), which is helmed by architects Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal, won the Golden Lion for Best Participant. The Beit Sahour, Palestine–based firm presented a deconstructed building facade intended to investigate “the subversion of fascist colonial architecture and its modernist legacy.” The prize jury commended Petti and Hilal for their “long-standing commitment to deep political engagement with architectural and learning practices of decolonization in Palestine and Europe.”

The Biennale, titled “Laboratory of the Future,” encountered a problem ahead of the award ceremony, which took place on the event’s opening day, when the Italian government prevented three Ghanaian curators from entering the country in order to attend the event. The trio had been conscripted by Lokko, the first curator of African descent to lead the Biennale, and were on their way to work in Venice. Italian authorities denied them visas on the grounds that the three might attempt to remain in Italy illegally. Lokko at a press conference decried the move as motivated by the denying authority’s attempt to curry favor with Italy’s right-wing government.


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