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Venice Architecture Biennale to go ahead as planned despite coronavirus outbreak

Venice Architecture Biennale to go ahead despite coronavirus outbreak

The Venice Architecture Biennale will open to the public on 23 May despite Italy's coronavirus outbreak, organisers confirmed today as they unveiled details of the programme.

Paolo Baratta, president of La Biennale di Venezia, announced details of the 17th architecture biennale via a live stream this morning.

Speculation over a postponement of the world's most prestigious architecture biennale had been mounting in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, but Baratta did not mention it.

The live stream was set up after a physical press conference scheduled for 3 March at the Italian Cultural Institute in London was cancelled with no explanation.

The online press conference took place as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy has risen to 400. The majority of these cases are concentrated in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, of which Venice is the capital.

A statement published alongside the press conference stated that the biennale will take place between 23 May and 29 November 2020, as previously planned. The preview, or vernissage, is scheduled for 21 and 22 May.

Biennale's theme is How will we live together?

During the press conference, which was broadcast from the biennale's Ca' Giustinian headquarters in Venice, Baratta introduced the themes of this year's events.

Hashim Sarkis, who will curate the biennale this year, joined via a video link from the United States. He explained the ideas behind this year's theme, which is How will we live together?

"We need a new spatial contract," said Sarkis.

"In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together."

"In effect, the Biennale Architettura 2020 asserts the vital role of the architect as both cordial convener and custodian of the spatial contract," he added.

In total, 114 participants from 46 countries will contribute to the biennale, which is expected to attract around 250,000 visitors.

Other events in northern Italy postponed

Several design events in northern Italy have been postponed in response to the coronavirus outbreak, including Salone del Mobile, the world's biggest furniture fair, which was due to take place in Milan from 21 to 26 April. The fair has been postponed to 16-21 June.

Salone del Mobile announced the decision on Twitter on Tuesday, with a video message from the city's mayor Giuseppe Sala.

"I am calling on our colleagues in the furnishing sector and the Salone del Mobile to pull together to make sure Milan doesn't grind to a halt," said Sala. "We need to work objectively to stop this virus spreading, but we must also take care not to spread the virus of distrust."

The outbreak has impacted other events due to take place in Milan including, MIDO, the world's biggest eyewear fair, which has also been postponed.

Outside of Italy events including the Light + Building fair in Frankfurt and Design Shanghai in China have also been postponed in response to the spread of the virus.

The coronavirus outbreak, which began in December 2019 in China, has now spread to 36 countries and infected more than 80,000 people. The global death toll stands at over 2,700.

The photo is by Tony Hisgett.