National Pavilion UAE’s 10th exhibition at the Biennale Architettura 2021 (Venice Architecture Biennale) called Wetland is curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. Wetland presents an environmentally friendly salt-based cement alternative which could reduce the climate impact of the construction industry.

Created from recycled industrial waste brine, the MgO cement has been hand-cast into organic shapes recalling the UAE’s traditional coral-built houses, forming a hand-built 7 x 5 meter prototype structure. The prototype is accompanied by large-scale images created by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi of the UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas (salt flats), which provided inspiration for the research process.

Curators and architects Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto said: “Exploring the relationship between nature and the built environment and developing new and more sustainable architectural methods are vital for our future, and this global conversation is long overdue. The theme for the 2021 Biennale, How Will We Live Together?, asks us to consider new modes for a shared future. For us, that meant examining the relationship between urban development and nature, but also reconsidering how we worked throughout our research process to bring a new focus on collaboration and collective thinking.”

The curators collaborated with specialist teams at three universities in developing the project. NYU Abu Dhabi’s Amber Lab contributed to the chemical formula for the cement; the University of Tokyo’s Obuchi Lab and Sato Lab supported the development of the construction modules and used advanced 3D remote engineering technology to formulate a viable hand-built structure in Venice; and the American University of Sharjah’s Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences contributed research that advanced understanding of the sabkhas.

Wetland is now open to the public at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale until November 21, 2021.