Ecological Citizens: Venice Architecture Biennale

  • In 2017, SCAPE was selected to participate in US Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The pavilion’s theme—Dimensions of Citizenship—was commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and The University of Chicago, and considers how citizenship is constructed and contested in the built environment across seven different scales. Expanding from the body and city to the network and the heavens, the seven installations raise questions about issues including belonging, sovereignty, and ecology.

    SCAPE’s scale—the region—demonstrates that landscape architecture can be a critical tool for re-envisioning the response of citizens to climate change. SCAPE’s project, Ecological Citizens, gives agency to citizens (human and non-human alike) of the region—an area that does not have fixed political boundaries, but rather assemblages of ecosystems, interspecies entanglements, infrastructural imperatives, and climatic forces. Taking the Venetian Lagoon as a globally significant case study of a tidal region under ecological threat, the exhibition features 1:1 intertidal architectures, including wood fascinesEconcrete® micro-tide pool units, and biodegradable coir logs that fight erosion, as well as video content about their use by regional citizens.

    Ecological Citizens argues for the important role that individual people and design play in protecting and restoring regional landscapes of all kinds. Two events bookend SCAPE’s presence at the Biennale: as part of the opening weekend of the Biennale on May 26th, Kate led a walking tour of La Certosa Island with scientists and activists who discussed what it means to be an ecological citizen in the face of climate change. The island’s salt marsh ecology is one of the vanishing landscapes highlighted in Ecological Citizens. At the Biennale’s closing in November 2018, in partnership with scientists from the Università di Bologna, Life Vimine and the Italian Institute of Marine Sciences, the installation’s architectural materials were re-deployedin the lagoon, thus putting into action the ways that citizens might help regenerate biodiverse marshlands and protect wildlife, within the larger landscape outside the Biennale’s doors.

    The exhibition was on view at the Pavilion of the United States, Giardini della Biennale, in Venice, Italy, from May 26 to November 25, 2018.