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20 architects to showcase works at Venice exhibition

KUALA LUMPUR (July 6): A delegation comprising 20 local architects will represent Malaysia at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale 2012 from Aug 29 to Nov 25 this year. The prestigious event will showcase artistic and architectural designs in line with this year’s theme “Common ground”.

The Venice Biennale began in 1895, and has been one of the world’s most prestigious cultural institutions that promote new artistic trends in contemporary arts. It is held each year alternating between art and architecture.

The three-monThevent will see participants from 55 nations. British architect David Chipperfield, this year’s artistic director, chose the theme to celebrate a vital, interconnected architectural culture, and pose questions about the intellectual and physical territories that it shares.

The theme could cover physical and spatial structures, as well as physical results of interactions between architects. This year is Malaysia’s second invitation to the event.

Works of the participating architects are being exhibited at Publika, Solaris Dutamas.
Sofiah: During the launch of our exhibit in 2010, we were invited to return by the Venice Biennale director.

Wan Sofiah Wan Ishak, director of Design Evolution Architects Sdn Bhd and creative team co-director for the Malaysian Pavilion, said the invitation was recognition of Malaysia’s success in its debut at the 2010 Biennale. “During the launch of our exhibit in 2010, we were invited to return by the Venice Biennale director.

It’s not a matter of just paying for your flight ticket and setting up a booth in Venice. You have to be officially invited by the organisers of the Biennale in order to participate,” she said. “So this year we were invited again and we are ecstatic.”

At the 2010 Biennale, the Malaysian Pavilion received 171,000 visitors which Sofiah believes is the largest number of visitors Malaysia has ever received for an exhibition anywhere in the world. “This puts Malaysia on the international architectural map.

With the participation, Malaysian architects are given a platform to demonstrate their creative abilities,“ she added. In 2010, the delegation to Venice received financial support from both the Malaysian External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) and the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM).

This year however, PAM is unable to participate while Matrade is financing half the cost. “Matrade is kind enough to sponsor the venue as well as the international publicity while the other half will be funded by the individual participants,” Sofiah added. Overall, it costs RM600,000 to participate.

Each participant is required to pay a sum of RM15,000 which includes the transportation of their artworks to Venice which requires the utilisation of a barge. According to Sofiah, during the Biennale, the whole of Venice will be converted into an exhibition space. Countries will rent out churches and other spaces to exhibit the works.

The Malaysian Pavilion will be allocated a space of 70m by 6m in an abandoned ammunitions warehouse cum heritage site that has been converted into an exhibition area.

“European countries as well as Australia and Singapore have larger pavilions. Singapore has prioritised the promotion of design for the past five to six years thus they have a bigger participation in the Biennale,” said Sofiah.

She hoped the Malaysian government will expand its involvement in the Biennale and understand its importance in uplifting the status of Malaysian designs in the international arena and put Malaysian architects on the same platform as the best in the world. The Malaysian exhibition this year is entitled Voices which is also being previewed to Malaysians from June 29 till Sunday at Publika, Solaris Dutamas.

Besides Sofiah, other architects and firms taking part in the exhibition are Boon Che Wee, Lee Chor Wah, Dr Tan Loke Mun of ArchiCentre, Neuformation Architects, Arkitek Karya Budi, Sacha and Tan Architects, C’Arch architecture + design and Creativeteam Project.

The Biennale will be officially opened to the public on Aug 29.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily July 6, 2012.

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