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Canada Council shortlists four 2020 Venice Biennale in Architecture teams


December 19, 2018
by Canadian Architect

The Canada Council for the Arts proudly supports Canada’s official entry to the prestigious 2020 Venice Biennale in Architecture, with four shortlisted teams announced today. Doubling its previous investment to enhance the international profile of Canada’s representation, the Canada Council for the Arts is making a contribution of $500,000 towards the 2020 exhibition and is also acting as Commissioner.

The for shortlisted teams are; Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism (Ottawa, ON), Ja Architecture Studio (Toronto, ON), Common Accounts (Toronto, ON), and T B A + David Theodore (Montreal, QC).

Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism — Fluid Boundaries: Ethical Imaginaries of Inland Waters

2020 Venice

Urban Imaginaries exhibition, work by Katie Shima and Murat Germen, Lightroom Gallery, Architecture Building, Carleton University, 2017

Fluid Boundaries is a partnership between the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism, with colleagues from Geography + Environmental Studies and the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies. The proposal explores the liquid boundaries and thresholds of Canada. We aim to foster a critical position on Canada’s responsibilities to inland bodies of water, Indigenous nations, human and non-human agencies, and the legal-governance entanglements that shape our collective experiences of Canada as an idea and place. Our exhibition positions interactive liquid landscape models with speculative drawings and texts that elicit an ethical imaginary on how these waterscapes should be maintained, experienced and challenged.

Ja Architecture Studio — Lightness

The Arch of Light was a finalist competition entry to Lord Stanley’s Gift Monument Competition. The proposal investigates how an iconic form can be reshaped into a monument which engages the public through the measure of time.

The Arch of Light was a finalist competition entry to Lord Stanley’s Gift Monument Competition. The proposal investigates how an iconic form can be reshaped into a monument which engages the public through the measure of time. Credit: Ja Architecture.

Architecture in Canada has a paradoxical relationship to light wood framing. With its simplicity, flexibility, and affordability, architects are able to conceive of spaces of considerable formal imagination, yet these same characteristics have placed light wood framing primarily outside the disciplinary boundaries of architecture and instead within the realm of building.

The Octagon—awarded a 2018 Award of Excellence by Canadian Architect— explores how light wood framing can be used to create a complex figurative form that, in spite of being a new building, is inextricably linked to its Victorian Context.

The Octagon—awarded a 2018 Award of Excellence by Canadian Architect— explores how light wood framing can be used to create a complex figurative form that, in spite of being a new building, is inextricably linked to its Victorian Context. Credit: Ja Architecture.

By examining Canada through the lens of this specific construction method, Lightness—Ja Architecture Studio’s collaborative submission for the Canadian Pavilion at the 2020 Venice Biennale—asks how we can explore the boundaries of the architectural imagination while connecting it to broader national issues such as ecology, regionalism, colonization, and settlement.

Common Accounts — After Life

Three Ordinary Funerals: Ceremonial Spaceframe, Collection of the MMCA, Seoul, 2017

Three Ordinary Funerals: Ceremonial Spaceframe, Collection of the MMCA, Seoul, 2017

With the prospect of humanity’s erasure under threat of environmental collapse at the planetary scale, the body is more present than ever—in architectural discourse, in social media, and in capitalism’s popular imaginary— and so too is the spectre of death as the motivating force of its ubiquity. Paradoxically, at the moment of its imminent disappearance, there is arguably no other time in history when the average human being has been as drawn to beautifying, hardening, face-lifting, and designing itself. After Life interrogates the intensifying attention on the body and reveals that death has maintained a hidden and prominent role in the construction of daily life.

T B A + David Theodore — Impostor Cities

Insectarium de Montréal (competition entry), TBA + FABRIQ, 2014

Insectarium de Montréal (competition entry), TBA + FABRIQ, 2014

Canada’s architecture is film-famous. Global citizens know Canada’s architecture because they go to the cinema. But unlike Paris or Rio de Janeiro, our cities rarely play themselves in famous movies. Instead, filmmakers and television producers use Canadian locations to stand in for elsewhere.

Curated by a collaborative team of architects, critics, and designers, Impostor Cities probes the complex identity of Canadian architecture by exploring the portrayal of our built environment onscreen. The exhibition offers fresh insights and an unusual look into how filmmakers transform our cityscapes and architectural icons that double for other places, other times, and other realities.


More information about the Canadian shortlist for the 2020 Venice Biennale in Architecture is available via the Canada Council website, linked here.