National Pavilion UAE searches for environmentally friendly alternative to Portland cement in 2020 Venice Biennale exhibition

The National Pavilion UAE at the 2020 Venice Biennale will present an experimental solution to the critical environmental impact of the construction industry, with an exhibition exploring how salt and mineral compounds found in the UAE’s Sabkha (salt flats) could inspire the development of renewable building materials.

The exhibition, titled “Wetland”, is curated by architects, Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. Through scientific experimentation and research, the curators are attempting to create a technological equivalent of Portland cement from the crystalised salt and minerals that form the UAE’s unique Sabkha.

“The cement industry accounts for eight percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in its production of concrete, which is the world’s second most highly-consumed material – so developing an alternative construction material without this high environmental impact is vital to shaping a sustainable future,” said curators, Al Awar and Teramoto, Principal Architects of waiwai design (formerly known as ibda design).

They added, “Sabkha are among the UAE’s richest geological features, and their mineral makeup has the potential to create a renewable, natural building material that is equivalent in scale, cost and strength to Portland cement.”

Laila Binbrek, Coordinating Director, National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia, said, “This year marks the UAE’s 10th year of participation at the Biennale, and fittingly, our curators are contributing to the global dialogue around environmental sustainability and climate change from a distinctively local perspective.

The exhibition will be presented at the National Pavilion UAE at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale from 23rd May to 29th November, 2020.

The 2020 Biennale is being curated by Lebanese architect, Hisham Sarkis, under the theme, “How Will We Live Together?”, which encourages curators to consider how architecture can address global challenges requiring coordinated action.

Inspired by what Sarkis calls “the overlooked role of the architect as both cordial convener and custodian of the spatial contract”, the National Pavilion UAE’s curators have partnered with teams at New York University – Abu Dhabi, the American University of Sharjah and the University of Tokyo, who will contribute to the exhibition’s innovative technical research.

In partnership with Alserkal Avenue, the 2020 curators occupied the space of Warehouse 47 at Alserkal Avenue, displaying samples of Sabkha, images and some of their experiments in preparation for the 2020 exhibition.

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 Venice Biennale’s Arsenale – Sale d’Armi.


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