And the Winner Is... Urban Exhibitionism? What is an Architecture Festival For?

Mon 24 June 2013 6.30pm

  • Italian Pavilion, 10th Venice Architectural Biennale. Photo Giorgio Zucchiatti ASAC. Courtesy Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee, Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia.
  • The Southwark Lido, EXYZT and The Architecture Foundation's contribution to the 2008 London Festival of Architecture. Photo courtesy Hannes Schreckensberger / EXYZT
  • From ROTOR's research for Behind The Green Door, Oslo Architecture Triennale 2013: Carlo Caldini in the vegetable garden, S-Space Mondial Festival,1971 © Gruppo 9999

During the course of the 2013 London Festival of Architecture, an international panel of representatives was assembled to explore and critique the notion of the in situ architectural showcase.

The list of architecture festivals and biennales grows and grows. The best known, the Venice Biennale of Architecture, was established in 1980, but remains very much the younger sibling of the art biennale (in existence since 1895). 2012 saw the first Istanbul Design Biennale, and 2011 saw New York City host the first Archtober, and the Festival of Ideas for the New City. Other fixtures on the scene include the World Architecture Festival (established in 2008), the Lisbon Architecture Triennale (since 2007), the Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (since 2005), and the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (since 2001). London’s own Festival of Architecture, initially launched as a biennale in 2004, will be an annual event from 2013.

Are these events dynamic catalysts to discussing and celebrating the city and architectural culture, or calculated devices of tourism and industrial promotion? How can a design biennale effectively impact upon its host city to leave a lasting change? And is the architectural profession even suited to the format of the grand exhibition, or has it been forced into an uneasy corner of exhibiting itself and competing on art's terms?

A panel of key international representatives of the architecture biennale and festival circuit presented their positions in a quick-fire series of presentations, before engaging in a wide ranging discussion focused upon the impacts, motivations, and wider issues raised by this format of architectural exhibition and celebration.


Deyan Sudjic, Director, Design Museum / Director, 8th Venice Biennale of Architecture
Hege Maria Eriksson, Director, Oslo Architecture Triennale
Ben Evans, Co-Founder and Director, London Design Festival
Shumi Bose, Senior Editor, Blueprint Magazine / Curatorial Collaborator, 13th Venice Biennale of Architecture 2012
Jovan Jelovac, Founder and Creative Director, Belgrade Design Week
Beatrice Galilee, Chief Curator, 2013 Close Closer, Lisbon Architecture Triennale
Vicky Richardson, Director, Architecture, Design, Fashion, British Council / Co-Director, London Festival of Architecture


Paul Finch, Programme Director of the World Architecture Festival; Deputy Chairman of the UK Design Council; chairman of Design Council Cabe (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment); and editorial director of the Architectural Review and Architects' Journal.


Series Media Partner

The Architectural Review

Event Supported By

Design Museum
Royal Norwegian Embassy in London