Uzbekistan Pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale 2023 looks into the past to envision the future

View of the Uzbekistan National Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2023 © Image courtesy of ACDF, photo by © Gerda Studio

The Art and Culture Development Foundation of the Republic of Uzbekistan (ACDF) has recently unveiled the title of the Uzbekistan Pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023. This highly anticipated exhibition, titled “Unbuild Together: Archaism vs Modernity,” brings together a diverse group of talented curators, researchers, craftsmen, and artists.

Led by the renowned French-Moroccan architecture office Studio KO, the project aims to delve into the fascinating ruins of the qalas, and the ancient fortresses of Karakalpakstan, and explore the rich heritage of the Khorezm civilization. Collaborating with associated artists such as Abdulvahid Bukhoriy, El Mehdi Azzam, Miza Mucciarelli, and Emine Gözde Sevim, the curatorial team promises to deliver a captivating and thought-provoking experience. Additionally, the research partnership with Ajou University in Tashkent (AUT) lends further depth and expertise to this extraordinary project.

View of the Uzbekistan National Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2023 © Image courtesy of ACDF, photo by © Gerda Studio

The essence of the Uzbekistan Pavilion lies in its exploration of the contrasting concepts of archaism and modernity, with a focus on envisioning a shared future by drawing inspiration from the past. Under the visionary theme of “The Laboratory of the Future,” as curated by Lesley Lokko, the Biennale Architettura 2023 transforms into a dynamic workshop—an incubator for ideas where participants and audiences alike can collectively shape and contemplate the possibilities that lie ahead. Emphasizing collaboration as a central pillar, the project places the human experience at its core.

Through a dynamic exchange between the curatorial team, architectural students from Ajou University in Tashkent, skilled craftsmen, and associated artists, the Uzbekistan Pavilion aspires to bring forth a collective proposal that defies conventions and embraces the unexpected. Each associated artist contributes their unique poetic perspective to this transformative endeavor. El Mehdi Azzam’s captivating film takes center stage within the architectural installation, evoking profound significance and stirring emotions. Miza Mucciarelli’s meticulously crafted reduced model serves as a conduit for understanding lived experiences, while Emine Gözde Sevim’s evocative photographic work offers a window into the shared journey. The project not only equips participants with theoretical and practical tools but also aims to deliver a sensitive and poetic architectural proposal that truly reflects the essence of contemporary and contextual practice.

View of the Uzbekistan National Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2023 © Image courtesy of ACDF, photo by © Gerda Studio

The project encompasses two enlightening workshops. The first workshop revolves around the spatiality of architecture, exploring the cultural heritage of the ancient qalas in Karakalpakstan. Students had the opportunity to witness the ruins firsthand, considering them both as a testament to the past and as a source of inspiration for the future of modernity. Contextuality, as a theme, was explored in depth, with students delving into Jean Nouvel’s Louisiana Manifesto and engaging in insightful discussions about the potential and limitations of contextualism in architecture.

The second workshop focused on the materiality of bricks, with a particular emphasis on secular structures like trading buildings and caravanserais, which played a significant role in international trade along the Great Silk Road. Guided by the expertise of Studio KO, students explored traditional construction techniques and innovative approaches, such as the use of kiln-dried bricks and the decorative applications of bricks in the architecture of Bukhara. They also had the privilege of witnessing the mastery of brick glazing at the ceramic workshop of the esteemed artist Abdulvahid Bukhoriy.

Throughout the workshops, students were encouraged to embrace the rich and diverse possibilities of materiality, utilizing various forms of representation to find their own voice in the symphony of form and substance. The project is set to captivate audiences from 20 May to 30 September at Venice’s Arsenale.

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