Venice Architecture Biennale pavilions set to hold "silent openings" without visitors

Venice Architecture Biennale pavilions set to hold "silent openings" without visitors

The organisers of national pavilions of the upcoming Venice Architecture Biennale are planning to open without guests next month due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Several national pavilions at the world's most prestigious architecture biennale have cancelled their physical opening events amid a resurgence of virus cases in Italy and with travel in Europe still restricted.

Organisers of the Swiss, Dutch and Singaporean presences said they intend to host "silent openings" or virtual events during the event's invitation-only vernissage on 20 and 21 May.

Pavilions postpone opening events

An official press conference held by the biennale earlier this week made no mention of the impact of the pandemic, stating the event would "open to the public from Saturday 22 May through Sunday 21 November 2021"

But Pro Helvetia, which organises the Swiss Pavilion, has postponed its opening events "in light of the still uncertain Covid-19 situation". Instead, it will host a silent opening.

"If the situation allows, ProHelvetia will instead organise a physical event on site in late summer or early autumn and hope to welcome you then in Venice," organisers added.

The Dutch Pavilion has also replaced plans for physical events with a virtual opening.

"Guests will not be invited to attend the opening in person but we hope that there will be another opportunity to host guests in the autumn," organisers told Dezeen.

"Online vernissage for invited guests"

The Singapore Pavilion said it is "planning an online vernissage for invited guests and media ahead of the official public opening of the Biennale on 22 May 2021".

Other pavilions are still reviewing their plans as the vernissage approaches.

"The British Council is closely following UK and Italian government guidelines regarding travel to and from Venice," said a representative of the body that organises the British Pavilion.

"Though plans are still being explored around what form a physical opening event at the British Pavilion might take, we are prioritising health and safety by focusing on remote celebrations."

Organisers of the Lebanese Pavilion said their exhibition would open on 22 May but had yet to determine opening plans.

Cultural buildings in Venice are closed

Venice is currently classified as an orange zone by the Italian government meaning that all museums, live shows, trade fairs and exhibitions as well as bars and restaurants are closed, but shops are open.

The six-month biennale usually draws an estimated 250,000 visitors to the Italian city. The official programme consists of a series of installations at the Arsenale, a former shipyard, plus national pavilions in the leafy Giardini della Biennale.

Other unofficial shows, including pop-up pavilions by nations that do not have a presence in the Giardini, traditionally take place across the city.

Originally planned to take place in 2020, the 17th edition of the biennale was postponed until 2021 due to coronavirus.

"We can no longer wait for politicians to propose a path"

This year's theme is How do we live together? Curated by Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis, the biennale will aim to explore ways in which people can co-exist while wealth and political ideologies diverge.

"The current global pandemic has no doubt made the question that this Biennale Architettura is asking all the more relevant and timely, even if somehow ironic, given the imposed isolation," Sarkis said at the biennale's press conference on Monday.

"It may indeed be a coincidence that the theme was proposed a few months before the pandemic," he added.

"However, many of the reasons that initially led us to ask this question - the intensifying climate crisis, massive population displacements, political instabilities around the world, and growing racial, social, and economic inequalities, among others - have led us to this pandemic and have become all the more relevant."

"We can no longer wait for politicians to propose a path towards a better future. As politics continue to divide and isolate, we can offer alternative ways of living together through architecture."

The pandemic has impacted events taking place across Europe in 2021 including the furniture and interiors fair IMM Cologne and Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair, which were due to take place in January and February respectively and were both cancelled.

Earlier this week the organisers of Milan's fuorisalone vowed that they would hold events in September amid doubts as to whether Salone del Mobile will be able to take place.

Venice Architecture Biennale is due to take place in Venice from 22 May to 21 November. For an up-to-date list of architecture and design events, visit Dezeen Events Guide.