Photo by Sahil Abdul Latheef courtesy of waiwai

This year’s theme of the Architecture Exhibition, How Will We Live Together? calls for pavilions to look at architecture’s ability to engage people and communities across increasing social, economic, political and digital divides. The National Pavilion UAE’s exhibition has responded to this call not only through its curatorial concept but although through its collaborative approach to developing the project and publication, convening a diverse group of partners, researchers and universities to contribute.

The National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, with a permanent pavilion at the Sale d’Armi in the Venice Arsenale. 2021 marks the UAE’s tenth participation in the International Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia since 2009.

Photo by Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai
Photo by Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

For its tenth participation in the International Exhibitions of Art and Architecture organised by La Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale), the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates is conducting groundbreaking research into an environmentally-friendly cement alternative inspired by the UAE’s sabkha (salt flats) and created from salts and minerals extracted from waste brine left over from water desalination.

The production of traditional cement generates 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions, while brine, highly-saturated saltwater left over from industrial desalination, is often poured back into the oceans with significant impact on marine life and ecosystems. In keeping with the Biennale’s overall theme How Will We Live Together, the UAE’s curators Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto are researching a solution addressing both these harmful environmental issues: an MgO-based alternative cement created from recycled waste brine.

This strong, insoluble building material was inspired by the crystallised salts and minerals found in the UAE’s Sabkhas (salt flats), which have been tentatively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning that the exhibition explores the intersection of an ancient ecological treasure and innovative sustainability research. Visitors can currently visit the Wetland research lab at Alserkal Avenue to see samples of sabkhas, images and material experiments as the curators continue their research in partnership with specialist teams at the Amber Lab at NYU Abu Dhabi, the American University of Sharjah and the University of Tokyo.

The project will be supplemented by a book titled The Anatomy of Sabkhas, written by urban researchers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib, expected to be released in May. The book will explore the ecological and socio-economical significance of these natural phenomena in detail based on case studies, personal essays, and photography. A supplementary volume edited and written by Aga Khan Award-winning architect Marina Tabassum will detail the journey of Wael and Teramoto’s research for the Wetland exhibition.

Wetland_Photo by Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai
Wetland_Photo by Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

The pavilion has collaborated with Dubai Future Foundation to present a series of public talks titled From Liwa to Mars, The Anatomy of Sabkhas. The series will expand on themes related to Wetland and the sabkhas. Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto will also be speaking at The World Around Summit, a global architecture conference examining the most urgent topics related to the environment, equity and the city, on 30 January, 2021.

The project is scheduled to be presented at the National Pavilion UAE at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale from Saturday May 22nd to Sunday November 21st 2021.


This information is extracted from the press release.

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