Biennale pavilion competition launches

Aug 29, 2011
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer

The Australia Council has officially launched the first stage of the design competition for the new Australian pavilion in Venice.

The Australia Council for the Arts is now calling for Expressions of Interest (EOI) from Australian registered architects and architecture practices to redevelop the Australian pavilion in Venice’s Giardini della Biennale. This EOI forms stage one of the competition process, with successful applicants shortlisted by a selection panel. Shortlisted architects that meet the selection criteria will then be invited to submit a detailed tender proposal in the second stage of the competition.

The competition structure has been amended since the Australia Council first publicised plans to manage a redevelopment of the Australian pavilion in Venice. Having initially announced an invitation-only competition in June, the Australia Council bowed to pressure from an OpenHAUS petition signed by over 750 signatories and earlier this month revealed new plans to hold a two-stage competition structure, based on AIA competition guidelines.

However, the competition still falls short of the open competition that many called for. The Conditions for Participation in the EOI stipulate that entrants must be an Australian registered architect or architectural practice, and that respondents have prior experience designing cultural buildings.

The new pavilion will replace the current Australian pavilion, designed by Philip Cox in 1988. The Australian pavilion is one of only 29 national pavilions to have a permanent site within the Giardini, which forms the heart of the prestigious Venice biennale events. Despite its small footprint of approximately 320sqm, the pavilion will provide a new exhibition space to showcase Australian visual arts to an international audience at one of the world’s most high-profile arts events.

The Australia Council’s announcement says: “The primary use of the new Australian Pavilion is as a public exhibition space, and as such the designed space must be flexible, adaptable and provide for multiple and cross-disciplinary art presentations.”

The successful architect at the end of the two-stage process will be awarded the contract for the project, though the appointed architect “may be required to work with an Italian firm to be appointed by the Australia Council,” according to the tender document.

Brian Zulaikha, Director of Tonkin Zulhaika Greer Architects and President of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), is the only architect on the selection panel for the competition.

Zulhaika will be joined on the panel by Simon Mordant, the Australian Commissioner of the Venice Art Biennale 2013 and Chair of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney; Kathy Keele, CEO of the Australia Council; Doug Hall, Australian Commissioner for the Venice Art Biennale 2011 and a former Director of the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art; and Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, Joint Managing Director of Transfield Holdings and Chair of the Biennale of Sydney.

The budget for the privately funded redevelopment is between $4-6 million. Work is expected to begin in 2012, with the project finished in time for the opening of the 56th International Art Venice Biennale.

The tender document for the competition can be downloaded here. Submissions close at 3pm on Friday 7 October 2011.

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