Kuwaiti Pavilion for 2016 Venice Biennale will tackle the possibility of joint territories in the Gulf

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.     Das Island. 1976.

The Kuwait Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale is entitled ‘Between East and West: A Gulf’ and aims to “look past Kuwait’s borders to the contested hydrography of the Persian/Arabian Gulf” with the intention of proposing a new masterplan for the Gulf region.

The country’s third participation in the architecture biennale will “tell the story of the Gulf’s islands and the possibilities they hold for a joint territorial project” and is curated by  Kuwaiti Hamed Bukhamseen, who is currently working at the Harvard University, and Ali Karimi from Bahrain.

Arabian Gulf_Ali

Bathymetry and territorial mapping of the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Image © 2016 Kuwait Pavilion Team


Located in the Arsenale, the pavilion will include a catalog of over three hundred islands in the Gulf and eloborate on their history and character. It will also feature proposals from young and established architecture practices in the region on how a single  masterplan could be established across the waters.

The exhibition will feature contributions from various architects such as Kuwait AGi Architects, the Behemonth Press with Matteo Mannini Architects, Design Earth, ESAS Architects, Fortune Penniman in collaboration with Studio Bound, PAD10 as well as UAE-based X Architects.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.     Das Island. 1976.

‘Touring a Masterplan’. Das Island. 1976. Image © 2016 Kuwait Pavilion Team

“This year’s Kuwaiti pavilion looks beyond the shores of the country and argues in favor of a masterplan for a united Gulf. By presenting the untold history of the region and proposing an alternate future, the pavilion casts the hydrography as a singular entity of neither East nor West, but as an untapped archipelago which defined the region and offers the greatest possibility for its reconciliation,” said a release on the Pavilion’s website. 


According to the curators, “the third in a series of architecture pavilions which explores the national in Kuwait, this chapter considers the country’s role in the region as part of a larger conversation towards peace and cooperation. An unprecedented initiative for a national participation from the Gulf, the subject of this year’s exhibition was chosen by the NCCAL for its aim to initiate a conversation amongst the countries that border this body of water, and to imagine a collective project to unify the region.”


Danish Archaeological Expedition of Failaika. Image Courtesy of Kuwait National Museum Archives – NCCAL

The exhibition has been commissioned by Zahra Ali Baba of the Kuwait NCCAL (National Council for Culture Arts and Letters) and will be accompanied by a research publication, presented in both English and in Arabic languages. These will be made available at the exhibition space on the opening date.


Acquiring Modernity – Kuwait Pavilion 2014. Image © Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia.

The 2016 Venice Biennale will take place from 28 May to 27 November.

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