In Venice, the National Pavilion of the UAE will present a large-scale prototype structure created from an innovative, environmentally friendly cement made of recycled industrial waste brine.
The salt-based prototype is 2.7m tall and 7mx5m wide on its exterior, creating a walkable interior space the size of an average room, 2.5m x 5m.
The structure is formed from up to 3,000 modules made of an MgO-based cement designed by the curators, Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, in a collaborative research process.
The curators worked with specialist teams at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Amber Lab, the American University of Sharjah’s Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, and the University of Tokyo’s Obuchi Lab and Sato Lab to develop the chemical formula for the cement and use advanced digital engineering technology to formulate a viable structure inspired by the concept of “future vernacular” architecture.
“Our MgO cement is made from brine leftover during industrial desalination, a resource that the UAE has in abundance. It has the strength and durability to be used in modern architecture in standard brick shapes, but for this exhibition, we have been inspired by the UAE’s traditional vernacular architecture of coral houses, to hand-cast modules in organic, coral-inspired shapes. In this way we are reimagining modern architectural processes and retaining a strong, poetic sense of the region’s identity and culture within the structure.” said Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto.
At the National Pavilion UAE, the prototype will be set against 4.5 meter wide, 3 meter high photographs of the Al Ruwais sabkha (salt flats), taken by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi. Taken in her trademark style, the scenic photographs capture the tension between urbanisation and nature in the UAE’s sabkha, which have been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to their scale, cultural significance and ecological complexity.
Farah Al Qasimi said: “The scenery of the sabkha sites presents a moment of conflict and resolution. My photographs of the site capture this tension between industrialization and the environment.”
Laila Binbrek, Coordinating Director, National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia said: “Wetland’s opening will mark the UAE’s tenth participation in the Venice Biennale, set against the inspirational context of the UAE’s 50th national anniversary. The exhibition presents a truly groundbreaking potential solution to the global issue of climate change, through a project that is rooted in our local stories, environment and society – reflecting the National Pavilion UAE’s commitment to tell the UAE’s untold stories while facilitating global dialogue.”
The exhibition also includes a 3-minute soundtrack capturing the ecological story of the sabkhas with water moving underground, the desalination process that creates brine and the exhibition’s research journey.
An accompanying publication titled The Anatomy of Sabkhas, written by urban researchers Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib will explore the ecological and socio-economic significance of these natural phenomena in detail based on case studies, personal essays, and photography. A supplementary volume edited and written by Aga Khan Award-winning architect Marina Tabassum will detail the journey of Wael and Teramoto’s research for the Wetland exhibition.
Wetland will open to the public at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale from Saturday May 22nd to Sunday November 21st 2021.