Brazil and Daar have won the Golden Lions at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale

The international jury has awarded the prizes of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, honoring project of reconstruction, decolonization (even less predictable places), reconciliation with the planet and the living.

The opening ritual of the Venice Architecture Biennale cannot be said to be complete until the expression of the international jury, and on May 20, in fact, Italian architect and curator Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and his colleagues have announced the winners of the Golden Lion, and the other prizes of this edition. The jury included Palestinian architect and curator Nora Akawi, Thelma Golden, director of StudioMuseum in Harlem, Cityscape Magazine's editor-in-chief Tau Tavengwa from South Africa, and Izabela Wieczorek, Polish architect and lecturer.

“Terra [Earth]”, the Brazilian pavilion project, has won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation: a work that, in the words of curators Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares, by inviting visitors to touch, feel, and smell the earth, invites them to recognize Brazil as an ancestral and diasporic territory, thus giving voice to a moment of reconstruction, repair, and restitution after hard years, a discourse built collectively with diverse populations.

DAAR, Decolonizing Architecture Art Research of Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, has won the Golden Lion for the best participation in the exhibition The Laboratory of the Future: a long explorative journey on the meaning of decolonization between Palestine and Europe, touching Italy this time with the project on show in Venice, which has given the fascist architectures of Sicily a new meaning, in the contemporary context of migrations, “creating cracks in the work of architects who often create colonial architecture, separating ‘us’ from ‘them’" as Hilal has said.

Golden Lion for the Best Participant: DAAR – Alessandro Petti e Sandi Hilal. Ente di Decolonizzazione – Borgo Rizza 18. 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, The laboratory of the Future. Photo by Andrea Avezzù. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

The multimedia installation capable of showing a public and global dimension of future has won Nigerian-Newyorker architect and artist Olalekan Jeyfus the Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the exhibition, while this time the special mentions have also counted a national participation, Great Britain with Dancing Before the Moon. 

Special mentions for participants have gone to Sammy Baloji’s practice, Twenty Nine Studio, with the archival exploration of the history of Congo, to Wolff Architects’ South Africa based practice, and to British, Zimbabwe-born practitioner Thandi Loewenson, for materializing spatial histories through a multimedia approach based on speculative writing. 

Demas Nwoko. Credit Titi Ogufere

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, as announced in March 2023, has been presented to Baba Demas Nwoko, Nigerian artist, designer and “architect of both the 20th and 21st centuries” as Biennale curator Lesley Lokko has called him, honoring him in the context of a future-centered exhibition as a figure “whose immaterial legacy – approach, ideas, ethos – is still in the process of being evaluated, understood and celebrated.”

To epitomize the spirit of these awards, let us borrow the guiding quote from James Baldwin that the curatorial team of the British pavilion has wanted to recall on stage: “There is a reason, after all, that some people wish to colonize the moon, and others dance before it as an ancient friend”.

Special Biennale

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