Gabinete de Arquitectura presents latticed brick arch at Venice Biennale

Gabinete de Arquitectura presents latticed brick arch as model for low-cost construction

Venice Architecture Biennale 2016: Golden Lion-winner Solano Benítez presents a brick and timber arch at the Venice Biennale as an example of how cheap materials and intensive labour could "transform scarcity into abundance".

Benítez's Paraguay-based studio Gabinete de Arquitectura created the installation in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini, to show how readily available materials and unskilled workman could provide a solution to the global need for rapid urban development.

"The world will need to build the equivalent of a city of one million inhabitants per week with only $10,000 (£7,000) per family," estimates Alejandro Aravena in the project's citation.

Gabinete de Arquitectura's arch in the Giardini's Central Pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

"Urbanisation will require building at a pace and with a scarcity of means never before seen in human history," he added. "If we don't do so, people will not stop coming to cities; they will come anyhow, but will live in appalling conditions. So what can we do?"

The studio created a large, arching structure to demonstrate how unskilled workers could use use low-tech building techniques to produce impressive urban architecture, as migration from rural communities towards cities increases.

The installation was awarded the Golden Lion for best exhibition at the Biennale, while Spain won the prize for best pavilion.

Gabinete de Arquitectura's arch in the Giardini's Central Pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016
Photograph by Amy Frearson

Both of this year's Golden Lion winners explore how new approaches to architecture are emerging from economic hardship.

"In developing countries, the construction industry is not so much a craft as a way to keep unemployment low; that is a why decision makers prefer inefficient (labour-intensive) building systems," said Aravena.

"This has allowed even those who do not have formal mason's training to be included in the building economy."

The jury praised Benítez's team for "harnessing simple materials, structural ingenuity and unskilled labour to bring architecture to underserved communities".

Gabinete de Arquitectura's arch in the Giardini's Central Pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Gabinete de Arquitectura is one of 88 participants in Aravena's exhibition, which is spread across the two Biennale venues.

The Chilean architect, who heads up the architectural "do-tank" Elemental, set the theme Reporting From The Front to shine a light on some of the most important global issues.

The exhibition features a number of freestanding architectural constructions, including an expansive limestone canopy built without glue by a team led by ETH Zurich researchers and the Silver Lion-winning floating school.

Photography is by Luke Hayes, unless otherwise stated.