Sharjah Architecture Triennial: dates and first participants for 2023

The palm wood library at Las Tres Esperanzas, a school for an Ecuadorean fishing community designed by David Barragán and Pascual Gangotena of Al Borde Architects

Dates and an initial slate of participants have been announced for the second Sharjah Architecture Triennial (SAT); it will run from 11 November to 10 March 2024.

Curator Tosin Oshinowo has previously unveiled its title and theme – The Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability – and the Triennial will be addressing a culture of re-use, re-appropriation, innovation, collaboration and adaptation that represents a response to issues of scarcity in the Global South. The key participants announced a couple of days ago all look well placed to contribute to this theme:

  • DAAR – Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti (DAAR is Decolonizing Architecture Art Research, their explicitly titled collaborative vehicle for research and implementation) will present an experimental preservation project that deals with the paradox of ‘permanent temporariness’ – as exemplified in particular by refugee camps in the Middle East. Over the last two decades, Hilal and Petti have developed a series of projects that are both sites both of display and of action. Their research spills over into built architectural structures, the shaping of critical learning environments, interventions that challenge dominant collective narratives, the production of new political imaginations, the formation of civic spaces and the redefinition of concepts.
Concrete Tent by DAAR in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine (2015). Photo: Anna Sara
  • Ghanaian spatial design studio Limbo Accra will present a public art and architecture installation that responds to the stasis of an incomplete mall; Sharjah is a place defined in part by fast change, and the mall is a neat emblem of this. Limbo Accra is influenced with ideas towards inclusivity, otherness and future, and often works with other creative disciplines in the formation of innovative and intuitive approaches to interesting design opportunities; much of the work of the studio emerges from research, interdisciplinary engagement, and experimentation with the aesthetics and cultural significance of unfinished, decaying concrete structures.
  • Reinforcing SAT’s emphasis on contextuality, Ecuadorian architecture studio Al Borde will create a shaded space that uses sustainable, locally-sourced materials and engages directly engages with the outdoor architecture of Al Qasimiyah School. Al Borde is noted for promoting local development, social innovation and sustainability in its projects, and its practice has been widely recognised in competitions, prizes, and architecture biennials. Currently, Al Borde is working on a docu-series that explores the cultural, historical, environmental, social, economic, geographic, and political environments of its projects.
  • Focusing on the relationship between materials, context and landscape, an installation by Angolan artist Sandra Poulson will analyse the ever-present dust in Luanda to reflect on the city’s economic, social and cultural framework. Sandra Poulson’s work uses the political, cultural, and socio-economic landscape of Angola to analyse the relationship between history, oral tradition, and global political structures; she has been commissioned to show at the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale (2023).
  • Lagos-based MOE+ Art Architecture (MOE+AA) will be embedded in Sharjah’s industrial environment – creating a moment of ecological pause that will act as a counterpoint to the man-made, mechanised landscapes that have become ubiquitous across the Emirates. Creative Director of MOE+AA, Papa Omotayo, is an award-winning, filmmaker, architect, designer, and writer whose work focuses on the nature of culture and context in the contemporary African condition.
Bamboo Workshop by MOE+AA
  • Inventive material explorations will be undertaken by Vinu Daniel of the award-winning Indian architectural practice Wallmakers, who will present a naturally sculpted pavilion that looks to reimagine the possibilities of building with sand (the firm’s first project was a compound wall, hence the name). Wallmakers is devoted to the principle of using mud and waste as the chief components of the structures it creates; as Daniel puts it, “In the place of questions like ‘What should we build?’, queries like ‘Should we build?’ should become more relevant”.
  • Nairobi-based architects Cave_bureau works to develop systems and structures that improve the human condition without negatively impacting the natural environment and social fabric of communities. By conducting intensive yet playful research studies into caves around the world, they aim to navigate a return to the limitless curiosity of our early ancestors while confronting the challenges of contemporary rural and urban living. For SAT the practice will occupy a disused slaughterhouse, projecting the geometries of a Neolithic cave to allude to the shared meanings between these two geologies of varying impermanence.
  • London-based Yara Sharif and Nasser Golzari are both practicing architects and academics with an interest in design as a means to rethink contested landscape; together they founded Palestine Regeneration Team (PART), a design-led research group that aims through speculative and live projects to search for creative and responsive spatial possibilities in fragmented landscape. The two have co-curated a number of exhibitions including Secrets of a Digital Garden as part of Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2019 and Berlinale in 2020 in collaboration with Riwaq. For SAT they will assemble a construction of discarded, disparate components in a challenge to the commodification of resources and consumers.
  • Known for his community-led, ethnographic-conscious design approach, Nifemi Marcus-Bello exploits to pursue new forms and typologies, allowing him to create truly unique products, forms and experiences while leaning on a keen interest in manufacturing, production availability, habits and history. Reflecting on the Triennial’s themes of re-appropriation and re-use, he will present an adaptable pavilion crafted using local weaving techniques that will house an explorations of indigenous contemporary design solutions coming from Lagos.
  • The effect of climate change on Sharjah’s biodiversity is central to projects such as a fabric-based temple by London/Amazon-based architect Yussef Agbo-Ola that will honour non-human life and endangered species from the region. Agbo-Ola, founder of Olaniyi Studio, is a multidisciplinary architect and artist whose work reflects hybrid identities and relationships to different landscapes, ecologies, and cultural rituals. He is focused on interpreting natural energy systems through interactive experiments that explore the connections between an array of sensory environments, from the biological and anthropological, to the perceptual and microscopic; his aim is to use diverse research methods to reinterpret local knowledge and its environmental importance.
  • In Sharjah’s old Al Jubail Vegetable Market, the multi-disciplinary Ethiopian designer Miriam Hillawi Abraham will present The Museum of Artifice, a life-sized facsimile of a Lalibela church façade. With a background in Architecture, Miriam Hillawi Abraham works with digital media and spatial design to interrogate equitable futurism; she is currently a Mellon researcher for the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s Digital Now multidisciplinary project.
  • Ola Uduku & Michael Collins will present works by British-Nigerian architect Alan Vaughan-Richards (1925-1989) and review his environmentally-conscious explorations that would make up the canon of West African Tropical Modernism. Collins is an architect, certified Passivehaus specialist, lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and founder of MCA, an award-winning practice based in London; Ola Uduku is Head of Liverpool School of Architecture with research specialisms in modern architecture in West Africa, the history of educational architecture in Africa, and contemporary issues related to social infrastructure provision for minority communities in the ‘West’ and ‘South’.
  • A film by Thao Nguyen Phan will highlight the past and present violence and destruction that occurs in the Mekong Delta, interspersed with footage from Sharjah. Trained as a painter, Thao Nguyen Phan is an artist whose practice encompasses video, painting and installation; based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, she is also co-founder of the Art Labor collective, which explores cross disciplinary practices and projects that benefit the local community.

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