Competition Open Call:
A Bench in Venice
The National Pavilion United Arab Emirates at La Biennale di Venezia , led by co-curator Wael Al Awar in collaboration with the Curator’s Collective, launches an international open call for Design students to propose a bench design for installation in Venice during the summer of 2021.
In the UAE, traditional benches of teakwood occupy areas of shade cast by the old souk walls, providing respite from the sun.
Image source: Unknown
For the first time in the Biennale Architettura de Venezia’s 40-year history, national pavilion curators around the globe are working together to investigate new avenues for fulfilling the Biennale’s potential as a platform for synergistic, expansive, and accessible collaboration. Known as the Curators’ Collective (CC), over 50 participating national pavilions have joined in the ongoing dialog alongside the Biennale’s chief curator, Hashim Sarkis.
In the Dominican Republic, the Malecón bench reconnects citizens back to their sea by re-directing their gaze towards it. Designed by Manuel Valverde Podestá in the 1970’s.
Image source: Jose Manuel Azcona
In this collaborative spirit, the CC contemplates one of the oldest and most basic units of social exchange, the bench. This open call puts forth the idea that the bench can be a key activator of Common Space, enabling observation, reflection and, therefore, dialog. As the world continues to grapple with today’s twin urgencies of the pandemic and accelerating climate change, the need for dialog is greater than ever.
In Albania, lightweight two-seater benches by 51N4E. enable sitters to organize themselves around Skanderbeg Square as they please.
Image source: Blerta Kambo
How can the design of a bench both spark and frame this dialogue?
The open call invites design students from around the world to enter.
In Italy, benches grow out of building facades in a civic gesture that integrates public seating directly into the urban fabric, as in the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence by LeonBattista Alberti.
Image source: Francesca Santeusanio
The bench design must communicate an idea about gathering, contemplation and conversation across cultures, while exploring the connection between human and environmental awareness.
The idea of a bench can inspire multiple and pluralistic interpretations—
Bench as connecting in the present
Bench as portal to a different place
Bench as coveted during the pandemic
Bench as avoided during the pandemic
Bench as a cultural symbol
Bench as solving a practical need
Bench as an individual
Bench as part of a collective
Bench as fixed
Bench as wandering
Value will be placed on entries that showcase the upcycling process. The bench must be able to function during both pandemic and non-pandemic times, be safe and durable for public use without need for maintenance during a three-month period.
In Korea, the pyeongsang’s sturdy wooden construction and generous dimensions serve as a communal sitting area, especially in the summer as it is cool, clean and elevated from the ground. It is a space where people share food and company, and even sleep.
It is a place of intersection where people can intentionally interact with their neighbors.
Image source: news.bucheon.go.kr
The winning benches will be fabricated and installed in Venice, Italy. All entries will be showcased on the CC website.
Entrants are invited to submit their proposals by July 5th, 2021 at 5pm CEST for installation in August.
Leftover pavilion construction materials to be upcycled into the bench design are provided. The list of materials, as well as their specifications, can be downloaded from the OpenCall Materials link.
Additional material may be used with justification.
In the Philippines, a tambayan is a place to socialize and hang out. Shown here is a roofed bench version, with angled walls that anchor against strong winds while doubling as a back rest.
Image source: Alexander Furunes
Bench Design Evaluation Criteria
Submissions will be judged on the following:
1) Originality and demonstration of creativity.
2) Relevance to the brief.
3) Feasibility of construction.
4) Embodiment and expression of how the design up-cycles pavilion construction leftover materials.
In Pakistan the Charpai is a hand-crafted object composed of natural materials, combining frame and weave, activating a spectrum of daily activities including play, conversation, and rest.
Image source: Faizan Ahmad
The competition, supported by the National Pavilion United Arab Emirates La Biennale di Venezia, will be moderated by Architect and Educator, Dalia Hamati.
The jurors consist of the following National Pavilion curators at Biennale Architettura de Venezia, 2021:
Fiona Mali, Co-curator, Albanian National Pavilion
David Theodore, Co-curator, Canadian National Pavilion
Roberta Semeraro, Curator, Dominican Republic National Pavilion
Madeleine Kessler, Co-curator, British National Pavilion
Hae-Won Shin, Curator, Korean National Pavilion
Sara Anwar, Curator, Pakistan National Pavilion
Alexander Furunes, Co-curator, Philippine National Pavilion
Günther Vogt & Violeta Burckhardt, VOGT Landscape Architects.
In Scotland, a public bench inserts itself into a private garden wall blurring the boundary between public and private.
Image source: Madeleine Kessler
Competition brief in multiple languages and materials list, can be downloaded from the CC open call materials link, →→→ here.
The submission should include the following:
1.The completed registration form submitted online, found on the CC website →→→ here, to receive unique competition entry ID.
2. A single A3 format PDF bench design proposal, including:
- A 200 word design statement; why are you creating this, what’s the inspiration behind it and how does your proposal answer the brief?
- 3D Imagery of the design proposal.
- Plan, elevation and section drawings of the design proposal, drawn at 1:20 scale with key dimensions noted.
- Fabrication process diagram with all materials used.
- The registration ID on the lower right corner.
- File should be in PDF format, 5MB or less.
- Label file as CC2021_OpenCall_IDnumber.pdf
3. A social media-friendly image of the design entry at 72dpi, in a square-crop jpeg format, submitted here (CC2021_OpenCall_IDnumber.jpg).
Both submission materials should be uploaded to the (anonymous) CC website submission link. →→→ here
*Any form of identification on PDF/JPG will result in disqualification.
* Copyright will be retained by the entrant.
For any questions regarding your submission please email us.
Open Call Schedule
June 16th, 2021: Submissions Open
July 7th, 2021: Submissions Close, at 7pm CEST
July 20th, 2021: Winners Notified
August, 2021: Benches Installed
November, 2021: Benches Deinstalled
In Japan, The Engawa is a raised floor surface of a traditional Japanese house that faces outwards, doubling as a bench inviting passersby to rest at its periphery.
Image source: Kozo Kadowaki
Full Curators Collective Participation List
Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Germany, Great Britain, Grenada, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Nordic Countries, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia , Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay and Uzbekistan
1. Is there a minimum or maximum number of people that can enter a team? No.
2. Can we submit more than one A3 sheet? No.
3. Does the A3 PDF submission format need to be portrait or landscape? TBD by applicant
4. Does the 3D imagery of the design proposal need to be computer generated? No, it can be hand-drawn, physically modeled or computer generated.
5. How much of the existing material should we use? This is up to the applicant.
6. Where in Venice will the benches be installed? Potential sites are currently being considered by the CC in conversation with various entities.
7. Should the bench be attached to the ground? No. The bench should be designed to be free-standing without the need for ground fixings.
8. Will I get to go to Venice? Travel to Venice will be at the travelers own expense.
9. Are there more accurate dimensions of the available materials? The competition entry can be schematic. Precise dimensions will be sourced for the selected winning entries.
More FAQ can be found here.