Architecture professors and dozens of students will exhibit their work at one of the most prestigious international architecture events in the world.
Every two years the architecture world takes over Italy for La Biennale Architettura (Venice Biennale), one of the most prestigious international architecture events in the world with origins dating back to the late 1800s. Thousands of architects, designers and educators flood the streets of Venice sharing their designs and ideas on the built environment with the public. And this year, three FIU architecture professors and dozens of students will exhibit their work on this grand architecture stage.
The 2021 Venice Biennale architecture exhibition examines how we will all live together, curated by architect and scholar Hashim Sarkis. And considering all the trials and tribulations of the past year—from COVID-19 lockdowns to worldwide social unrest—the theme is especially relevant. It is a question that FIU’s award-winning and nationally-ranked School of Architecture (SoA) consistently explores in its work.
Associate professor Elisa Silva has been studying the topic since 2018 when she, along with her practice in Venezuela, Enlace Arquitectura, started the project Integration in Process Caracas, which set out to bring awareness to underserved barrios in Caracas, Venezuela and integrate them into the rest of the city.
Many of the barrios in Caracas, despite being home to more than half of the urban population, are not recognized as part of the overall city. La Palomera, for example, is a small residential settlement in Caracas that has existed for almost 90 years but has no road signs indicating its address.
As part of the project, Silva and her team created an exhibition Ciudad Completa (The Complete City): La Palomera, recognition and celebration, where artists, journalists, designers and educators all came together to question the stigmas associated with the barrios and highlight their value through gardens, walks, art, events and celebrations.
Being featured in this year’s Biennale is one aspect of Silva’s Ciudad Completa exhibition.
In the barrios, residents have a deep understanding of plants, specifically what each species is used for – whether they have medicinal qualities, are good for cooking or are used to repel insects, animals and bad smells. This knowledge is becoming increasingly scarce, so Silva and her team created a mapping of the gardens in La Palomera and produced an ethnobotanical dictionary, detailing the stories and origins of 260 species of plants.
To bring this dictionary to life, Silva created a trail-like view of La Palomera and its various gardens where all 260 species of plants can be found. The model was cut at FIU’s Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS) with the help of about a dozen architecture students.