Venice biennal full logo
Venice Biennale di Architettura 2023

SA Pavilion: The Structure of a People

About the SA Pavilion

The South African pavilion at the 18th Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is themed around the architectural representation of existing and speculative social structures.

The pavilion is conceived in three primary zones: 

Zone I: The Past is the Laboratory of the Future

This area features a reflection on the cultural heritage of the Bokoni people, who had formed a vast civilization over roughly ten thousand square kilometres in what is now Mpumalanga. The architecture of the Bokoni consisted primarily of two materials; permanent, dry-stacked stone, and ephemeral, hand-woven grass. The social structures of the Bokoni are preserved in the visible plan forms of their homesteads, while the social structures represented by weaving practices can only be inferred from sub cultures still practicing grass weaving today. 

Zone II: The Council of (Non-Human) Beings

The darkened space of Zone II provides visitors with a moment of contemplation guided by research-practice drawings derived from African philosophical systems. This work addresses the lost core philosophy of African religion, namely vitality or vital force. This value system is explored in its various manifestations including aesthetics, ritual, social and ecological systems. The drawings point to a future in which non-western traditions of thought are introduced into the epistemological realm of architecture.

Zone III: Political Animals

Through an architectural design competition for South African architecture schools, students and faculty are invited to participate in the construction of architectural models and artefacts that materialise the social and political relationships present in their institutions. With this gesture, it is suggested that institutions and organizations bind us into larger formations, which could be conceived of as largely invisible, but very active, living architectural creatures. Architecture schools are where the practitioners of the future are experimenting with new scenarios, speculating about alternatives to existing orders and interrogating the past – they are Laboratories of the Future.

Become part of the SA Pavilion at the Venice Biennale di Achitettura 2023