National participation of Belgium


Composite Presence



Composite Presence

Belgian Pavilion | Flanders

17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

May 22nd - November 21st, 2021



On the initiative of the Flemish Community and commissioned by the Flanders Architecture Institute (VAi), Bovenbouw Architectuur will present the exhibition Composite Presence in the Belgian pavilion. By means of 50 reference projects, curator Dirk Somers (Bovenbouw Architectuur) will show the contemporary city in Flanders and Brussels in all its complexity: ‘Composite Presence embodies the love-hate relationship between architecture and city.’

The scenography by Bovenbouw Architectuur shows a piece of urban landscape on a scale of 1/15. Fifty recent projects by 45 contemporary Belgian practices contribute to the imaginary landscape. This selection of projects depicts a healthy architectural ecology in which different styles, functions and typologies coincide. 

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Many of these projects are refurbishments and adaptations, adding up to the variegated experience of form, time and texture. Whether projects are modest reuses or shiny newbies, they all share an interest in contributing to a city that is simultaneously patched up and balanced. 

The project selection also reveals the importance of the current policies in Belgium when it comes to city planning and tendering. Many of the designs in this cityscape stem from procedures set up by city architects, the Flemish Government Architect, and related committees and administrations. This model arrangement simulates the negotiated urban environment that has slowly emerged from this field of expertise. 

(Dirk Somers, curator)





Main Exhibition



Hashim Sarkis

Central Pavilion (Giardini) - Arsenale










The Opposite Shore. The suburban settlement from private property to co-operative living—2016–2019

The suburb is arguably one of the most controversial legacies of the twentieth century. It embodies a way of life driven by the pastoral dream to live away from the city. Yet suburbs played into the idea of private property as the fundamental social characterization of a liberal, democratic ethos. For many governments, promoting the individual ownership of a single, detached home was a way to individuate and establish the family as the cornerstone of society. A strict separation of life and work and the full privatization of domestic labor defined the suburbs: the house represented the safe haven for family-living, preserved from the promiscuity of the workplace and social relationships. Suburbs in Europe today are in steep decline as both social and environmental constructs. Yet the suburbs are still there and will remain for a long time to come.

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Other Belgian participants in Venice








Jan Boelen - Pavilion of Lithuania

Lithuanian Space Agency (LSA) is thrilled to present the Pavilion of Lithuania at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. In the unique setting of the Renaissance church Santa Maria dei Derelitti, the LSA proposes a fictional outer space world that brings together gravitational aesthetics and cosmic imagination. The LSA’s exhibition in Venice is curated by Jan Boelen, commissioned by Julija Reklaitė and organised by Rupert, Centre for Art and Education.

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Studio SNCDA - Pavilion of Luxembourg

The project for the Luxembourg pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale will be led jointly by LUCA and the architect Sara Noel Costa de Araujo (Studio SNCDA), surrounded by a multidisciplinary team that will occupy the the Arsenale space from May.

Responding to the general theme of this 17th Biennale, ‘How will we live together?’, chosen by the curator Hashim Sarkis, the Luxembourg pavilion showcases a modular installation designed by Sara Noel Costa de Araujo in the Arsenales ‘Sale d’Armi’. This installation comprises several spaces of a different nature, including a space dedicated to the modular habitat and others to the exhibition, with artistic collaborations planned with Koenraad Dedobbeleer, Ester Goris and Arnaud Hendrickx who will work on site. Because this project also includes a programme of curatorial residencies initiated by LUCA.

In addition to this installation and the residency programme, a collaboration with the Belgian architecture magazine Accattone is planned. Several articles will be published in the May issue whose topics explore ideas for a reversible habitat, visions to propose a new model enabling a common urban soil to be used again for new ways of living together. The participants in these contributions come from many different backgrounds. They include architects, urban planners of course, as well as artists, photographers, ecologists, developers and lawyers, etc.

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Traumnovelle - Pavilion of Poland

The Trouble in Paradise exhibition in the Polish Pavilion treats the countryside as an independent area of research and seeks within it answers to the main theme of this year’s Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice: How will we live together?. Exhibition curators, PROLOG +1 collective, in collaborationwith an international group of architects and artists, will show that in times of growing local andglobal crises, rural areas are an important element of building sustainable human environments. On May 22nd, the opening day of the exhibition, a digital version of the project will launch online at

The exhibition in the Polish Pavilion is organised by Zachęta — National Gallery of Art in Warsaw. Trouble in Paradise is a multifaceted story about the future of communal life in the countryside.That is where the authors of the exhibition see the potential for discussion on what is common —going beyond the division into the public and the private. Reflections on the marginalised issue oflarge rural areas and the progressive migration from cities to these areas became an impulse for thecreation of speculative visions by the architectural teams from Europe invited to the project. Among them, TRAUMNOVELLE that presents the project EURECA.

EURECA – the EU Climate Resistance Agency – has drafted a continental infrastructure plan to combat the effects of global warming. It helps to tackle specific threats, such as rising sea levels, droughts and forest fires, while also anticipating future threats by increasing forest coverage and CO2 absorption. EURECA also increases citizens’ resilience and the independence of local governments. EURECA protects Europe like a parent would protect their child. 

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Notan Office

ECC European Cultural Centre 

This young Brussels architecture firm will present two built projects: LINCOLN in Brussels and LE13EME in Beirut. Both projects involved roof extensions of apartments and are also alike in the fluidity of space that is articulated by a functional core. While the two projects share a similar philosophy the finished constructions are strikingly different.

In presenting these two projects at the exhibition, NOTAN OFFICE seeks to emphasize the influence of context and the chosen construction methods. The key role of the artist in creating an authentic, unique and contemporary end product.

The two projects exemplify one of the recurring issues in architecture – the search for harmony between “the controllable and the unexpected”.

In collaboration with the artist / photographer NICOLAS DELAROCHE, who shares the same obsession with improbability as an additional spacial and material feature, images of the projects will be printed on ceramic, using a specialist technique mastered by the artist. This is a raw representation that intensifies NOTAN OFFICE’s ambition to always leave space for the unexpected.

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CRU! Architecten

ECC European Cultural Centre

CRU! architects is presenting a construction, designed and built together with Mouton engineering and contractor Detavernier, during the Biennale at the Palazzo Mora. The construction reflects on 'new building' by demonstrating the strength of bamboo, a new old building material, whose properties make it as good or better than almost any other construction material, including in our regions. By visualizing a play of forces that the engineer, architect and contractor designed together, this also depicts the future of collaboration, which was also the (distant) past, for example in cathedrals - where weights were lifted using pulleys. The play of forces is demonstrated by increasing a load to six times its original weight (through the use of these pulleys) and thus having a higher force exerted on the bamboo geometry, and thus demonstrating the strength of the material. The spectator can also stand on the plate already loaded with weights, and thus increase the pressure or tension on the system, whereby the chosen solution (bamboo in triangulation - with modular prefabricated nodes) absorbs these forces. Because the construction was completely prefabricated and a circular screw-unscrew technique was used, the construction could be set up on site with 2 people in 2hrs 45min, which could be important in giving bamboo an economic and ecological advantage as a test case of time taken. These techniques were also extensively studied in a doctoral dissertation at the KUL (Catholic University of Louvain) dept. of engineering / Human Settlements by the executive architect. The work was entitled 'Collapse - mind your step (and make your weight count)'; the influence of current crises in the way we live is a field of tension that can lead to balance or collapse of the system, depending on the reaction force that individuals exert on the system. Or how physics and nature can help counter this "collapse". In addition to the main construction, other work by CRU! Is displayed in the space next to it, especially emphasising the use of the Blue Economy and proportionality in most of the recent works by CRU!  Later, a model will be added of a project in collaboration with the Blue Economy movement and the Taiwanese government, in which a modular bamboo solution can be set up as a post-disaster command centre, a house that can be moved or other adjustments. This model could not reach the Biennale from Taiwan due to the global crisis, an example of the philosophy behind the construction on display.

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