Khaled Alawadi to curate UAE’s exhibition at 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale

Emirati architect and urbanist Khaled Alawadi has been named as the curator for the UAE’s exhibition at the next Venice Architecture Biennale.

The first UAE national scholar to specialise in the design of sustainable cities, Dr Alawadi is currently Assistant Professor of Sustainable Urbanism at the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi (he founded the MSc in Sustainable Critical Infrastructure programme there). His CV includes a recent spell at MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism as Visiting Assistant Professor, and previous employers include Dubai Municipality (he was an architect there) and UAE University (an Assistant Professor again).

Dr Alawadi’s work focuses on the role of urban design and planning in promoting sustainable development – his the big question is: “Which urban forms, technological solutions, and policy initiatives will effectively deliver greater environmental, social, and economic coherence in our regions, cities, and neighborhoods?” – and his MSc course pivots squarely on the new paradigms required to respond to megascale.

His PhD thesis from the University of Texas at Austin and a subsequent article for the academic journal Cities were on this subject, as applied to the region’s most likely candidate: Rethinking Dubai’s Urbanism has the subtitle “generating sustainable form-based urban design strategies for an integrated neighbourhood” and argues that urban sustainability is always context-dependent and “environmental stewardship must be pursued with consideration for the needs of peoples and places”.

Khulood Al Atiyat, Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, observed that UAE’s ongoing participation in the Venice Biennale is “an opportunity to join a global cultural conversation” and described Dr Alawadi as “very well-qualified to represent the UAE” and “one of the region’s pre-eminent thinkers on urban landscapes and architecture … We are delighted that he will bring this deep knowledge to bear as curator of the UAE’s 2018 exhibition”. The Foundation is the commissioner of the National Pavilion UAE at the Venice Biennale, including the architecture slot.

The last time around the UAE presence at the Architecture Biennale was curated by Yasser Elsheshtawy in a well-received exhibition that focused on the  sha’abi housing of the early days of the UAE. Khaled Alawadi actually contributed to the publication and research accompanying the 2016 exhibition.

“The UAE has a unique architectural heritage which sits in dialogue with rapid urbanisation and development, and offers a rich environment for thinking about the future of architecture and urban planning,” said Dr Alawadi. “Throughout my research, my aim is to develop the UAE’s reputation as a knowledge hub and engine for the transformation of cities and sustainable urbanisation”.

The 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will run from 26 May to 25 November 2018. The Biennale’s curatorial direction has been set by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects with the theme of ‘Freespace’, and each National Pavilion will respond to their overall aim to reveal the capacity of architecture to connect with history, time, place, and people. This will be the UAE’s third participation in the Architecture Exhibition.

Applications for the 2018 Venice Internship, which offers Emiratis and long-term residents the opportunity to spend a month in Venice staffing the UAE’s exhibition, are now open. More information here.

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