Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, principal architects of Dubai’s ibda design, have been appointed as the curators for the National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Biennale 2020 following an open call that attracted close to 100 curatorial proposals. Their exhibition will explore sea salt as a traditional, locally-sourced building material, and its potential uses for developing sustainable habitation in desert environments like the UAE.

ibda design is a multi-disciplinary architecture, landscape and urban design studio founded in Dubai. Known for addressing the social, environmental, economical and technological aspects of architectural projects, the firm has worked on prominent cultural institutions including Dubai’s Jameel Arts Centre, Hai d3, and Jeddah’s Hayy Cultural Hub.

“Our approach to design interweaves natural light, time, structure, and landscape with architecture. We are continually inspired by natural phenomena and the ways in which architects can adapt organic materials to create sustainable designs,” said curators Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, principal architects of ibda design. “We are honoured to have been selected as the curators for the National Pavilion UAE, and we’d like to thank the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation for this opportunity to expand our research into this important global conversation. Salt is a geologically fascinating substance as well as one of the UAE’s most abundant natural resources, and through our exhibition we’ll explore its potential as an environmentally-friendly building material.”

Khulood Al Atiyat, manager of Arts, Culture, and Heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, commissioner of the National Pavilion UAE, said: “Curating a Venice Biennale pavilion is a balance between representing region-specific ideas and telling untold local stories, while remaining relevant to global themes and conversations that resonate with the Biennale’s diverse audience. ibda design maintains a uniquely cross-continental approach and its Principal Architects bring professional experience from Tokyo to Rotterdam, meaning they will be bringing a fresh perspective on the dialogue between the region’s architecture and the world’s to the National Pavilion UAE.”

The 2020 curators were selected following the National Pavilion UAE’s first open call, which invited designers, architects and thinkers based in the UAE and around the world to develop proposals for the 2020 exhibition. The 97 curatorial proposals submitted demonstrate diverse ideas and vibrant perspectives on local and global architecture from a variety of voices.

The National Pavilion UAE will present ibda design’s exhibition at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, from May 23 to November 29, 2020. Curated by Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis under the overall theme How Will We Live Together?, the 2020 Biennale will look at architecture’s ability to engage people and communities across increasing social, economic, political and digital divides.