Australian Pavilion in Venice: new competition announced

Aug 2, 2011
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer

The Australia Council has announced it is amending the structure of its competition to design a new Australian Pavilion for the Venice Art and Architecture Biennales.

The Council has said it will launch a two-stage “open competition” later this month, with an open call for expressions of interest. Entries will then be shortlisted by the Australia Council, with successful entrants asked to submit a detailed proposal for the site.

However, only entries from practices with previous experience designing public buildings in an international context will be considered for the second round of the competition.

The two-stage competition structure is drawn from the Australian Institute of Architects’ competition guidelines. Later this month, the Australia Council will announce the criteria against which expressions of interest will be assessed. The shortlist will then be drawn up, with successful entrants issued with a detailed design brief for the project.

The change to the competition structure comes after a petition organised by OpenHAUS for an open competition in Venice was signed by over 750 signatories, and follows consultation between the Australia Council and the Australian Institute of Architects. However, the amended competition structure still falls short of an open competition that delivers equal opportunity to all architects.

Simon Mordant, an arts philanthropist and commissioner for the 2013 Venice Art Biennale, said: “The noise around ‘start with design and then deal with credentials’ doesn’t actually cut the mustard at all with me. The government who own the site and the private-sector donors who are putting up the money for the redevelopment will only want to work with someone who can deliver the project. This has to start with the credentials and then go on to the design, not the other way around.”

Mordant has pledged $1 million to the redevelopment project, which currently has a budget of $6 million. He will be working with the Australia Council to manage the development of the new pavilion.

The existing Australian pavilion was designed by Philip Cox in 1988. Australia is one of only 29 countries to have a permanent pavilion within the Venice Giardini for use during the alternating Art and Architecture Biennales.

Conversation • 3 comments

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02 Aug 11 at 10:37 PM • Berkshire Review

In the words of Harvey Pekar, this is another reliable disappointment for Australian architecture. And it would have been so easy to get it right. Under a strict interpretation of the new criteria, Glenn Murcutt would appear to be excluded.

One need only visit the Scuola di San Rocco or the Frari to see how a complex and interesting relationship between art and architecture enhances both (or would Titan’s Assunta look better under down lights?). The Venetians were more progressive than the Australia Council five hundred years ago!

At least we can guess what the shortlist will look like:


04 Aug 11 at 6:03 AM • Jonathan

Step forward or step backward?
All this appears to do is increase the cost of either entering or running the competition.
An entrant needs to to first prepare and submit credentials, then compete.
The organiser has to vet and select the shortlist, then judge the competition.
Only a sceptic would say, reselect the selected shortlist.

05 Aug 11 at 12:08 AM • dav

I am sure that a firm component in delivering an international public building can be found to help deliver the best design.


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