Dezeen's top 10 pavilions at Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

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Dezeen's top 10 pavilions at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Venice Architecture Biennale 2016: there are 61 national pavilions exhibiting as part of this year's Venice Biennale, so it's nearly impossible to see them all. Dezeen's architecture editor Amy Frearson has picked out the 10 that are not to be missed.

The 15th Venice Architecture Biennale is curated by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. The theme of his exhibition, Reporting From The Front, aims to shine a light on global issues that architects have the power to influence or solve.

The national participants were encouraged to also explore this theme in their pavilions, which are on show until 27 November 2016. Topics covered range from the future of the home to the refugee crisis and the importance of the swimming pool.

The majority of the pavilions at located in the Giardini – one of the two main Biennale venues. A further 20 can be found at the other venue, the Arsenale, while the remaining 11 are dotted around the city.

Here's our pick of the best:


Swiss Pavilion: Incidental Space
Sandra Oehy, Christian Kerez

The cavernous cloud-like structure that architect Christian Kerez has constructed inside Switzerland's pavilion is one of the most impressive spectacles of the Biennale.

Designed to offer visitors a "pure encounter with architecture", the project showcases the potential of combining traditional architectural crafts with digital technologies.

Venue: Giardini


Baltic Pavilion: The Baltic Atlas
Kārlis Bērziņš, Jurga Daubaraitė, Petras Išora, Ona Lozuraitytė, Niklāvs Paegle, Dagnija Smilga, Johan Tali, Laila Zariņa, Jonas Žukauskas

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have united for the first time at the Biennale to present the Baltic Pavilion, which explores the impact of redeveloping the region's Soviet-era infrastructure.

The works of more than 70 architects, scientists, geologists, anthropologists and philosophers are presented across both the main arena and the tiered seating areas of a Brutalist sports hall, beneath a white canopy intended to create an "artificial sky".

Venue: Palasport GB Gianquinto, Castello 2132, Calle S Biagio


Australian Pavilion: The Pool – Architecture, Culture and Identity in Australia
Aileen Sage Architects, Michelle Tabet

The municipal swimming pool is as vital to Australian culture as the piazza is to Europe, according to the curators of Australia's pavilion, who have built a full-size pool as the centrepiece of their exhibition.

Visitors are invited to relax in deck chairs or to sit on wooden bleachers and dip their toes into the water, while interviews are played out through the sound system – the result is a space more calming than anywhere else at the Biennale.

Venue: Giardini


British Pavilion: Home Economics
Jack Self, Shumi Bose, Finn Williams

Five futuristic models of the home are on show inside the British Pavilion, which calls for architects to look beyond standard residential typologies, and to instead develop new financial models for housing.

The rooms are divided up into different periods of time: hours, days, months, years and decades. Highlights include a transparent wardrobe that encourages sharing, inflatable orbs that symbolise portable living spaces, and a modular housing unit.

Venue: Giardini


Spanish Pavilion: Unfinished
Carnicero + Quintans

Spain was awarded the Golden Lion for best Biennale pavilion with this survey of unfinished structures left in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, which hit Spain harder than many other European countries.

The exhibition also showcases 55 recent buildings that demonstrate a range of solutions to working under economic constraints. Shown through photographs and plans, these are presented on steel structures to suggest an unfinished building.

Venue: Giardini


Japan Pavilion: Art of Nexus
Yoshiyuki Yamana

Japan pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Japan's national pavilion was another favourite of the Biennale awards jury, who awarded it a special commendation.

Centred on the relationship between architecture and unemployment in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, it presents a series of projects that show how the country's architects and communities are becoming more focused on sharing.

Venue: Giardini


Polish Pavilion: Fair Building
Dominika Janicka, Martyna Janicka, Michał Gdak

Fair building exhibition and installation at the Polish pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. Photograph by Maciej Jelonek

Unsettling scenes of building sites are screened amidst a full-scale scaffolding structure inside Poland's Biennale pavilion, which focuses on the plight of the construction worker.

By showing builders putting themselves in potentially life-threatening situations, in the use of heavy machinery and atop high-rise structures, the curators hope to draw greater attention to "a largely ignored sector of the industry".

Venue: Giardini


Irish Pavilion: Losing Myself
Níall McLaughlin, Yeoryia Manolopoulou

Irish pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016
Photograph by Riccardo Tosetto

The curators of Ireland's national pavilion have attempted to recreate the fragmentary experience of architecture that is familiar to dementia sufferers – using a grid of suspended projector screens and audio speakers.

The immersive installation aims to offer an insight into the brain disease, which affects over 46 million people worldwide, to help architects understand the importance of clear orientation in their designs.

Venue: Arsenale


Montenegro Pavilion: Project Solana Ulcinj
Bart Lootsma, Katherina Weinberger

Montenegro pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

As one of the most popular exhibitions outside the two main Biennale venues, Montenegro's national pavilion explores four future proposals for Solana – an artificial landscape that is home to over 250 bird species, including the Greater Flamingo and the rare Dalmatian Pelican.

Designs include an ornithological park by London-based EcoLogicStudio and a salt-production facility by Dutch studio LOLA Landscape Architects.

Venue: Palazzo Malipiero, San Marco 3079


Danish Pavilion: Art of Many – The Right to Space
Boris Brorman Jensen, Kristoffer Lindhardt Weiss

Denmark pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Fans of architectural models will find no better hangout than Denmark's pavilion, which is full of small-scale examples of the country's most impressive buildings from the last 15 years.

With projects ranging from a self-sustaining, off-grid village to an aluminium-clad children's centre in Copenhagen, all displayed on a custom-built scaffolding structure, the exhibition promotes architecture that benefits local communities.

Venue: Giardini