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The United Arab Emirates were awarded the Golden Lion for the best national participation at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2021. The pavilion entitled “Wetland” was designed by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto curates and shows the potential of natural salt as an alternative to Portland cement.

“Before the pandemic, we looked at Sabkhas, a robust ecosystem of natural salt lakes that is emerging in the United Arab Emirates,” the curators explained. This has inspired us to explore a renewable construction resource that can replace portland cement. The crystallization of salt in the Sabkhas provides a blueprint for an alternative to portland cement, the production of which accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions. ”

The pavilion was selected by an international jury consisting of Kazuyo Sejima (President, Japan), Sandra Barclay (Peru), Lamia Joreige (Lebanon), Lesley Lokko (Ghana-Scotland) and Luca Molinari (Italy). In their quote, the jury praised Wetland for “a courageous experiment that inspires us to reflect on the relationship between waste and production on a local and global level and opens up new construction possibilities between craftsmanship and high technology”.

Meanwhile, Russia and the Philippines received special mentions in the “National Participation” category. While the Russian Pavilion was praised for its “sensitive and careful architectural renovation” in the Giardini, the Philippines were seen as “an exemplary joint project that creates a rich archive and experience with collaborative building practices”.

The Golden Lion for the best individual participant went to the German raumlaborberlin for the “Instances of urban practice” pavilion. The jury praised the group for “an inspiring, collaborative approach that advocates participation, regeneration and collective responsibility, and which spawns two projects that are a model for imaginative civic revitalization”. The Silver Lion for a promising young participant went to the Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territory (FAST) from Amsterdam and New York, with special mention to the Kenyan Cave_bureau.

On the recommendation of the curator Hashim Sarkis, the Italian architect, designer, scenographer, artist and critic Lina Bo Bardi, who is a naturalized Brazilian citizen, received the Golden Special Lion for her life’s work in memoriam.

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