Teresa Iarocci Mavica
Teresa Iarocci Mavica

“The Venice Biennale offers its participants a fundamental tool for artistic representation. Beyond being a matter of privilege, participation also holds a more practical significance – Venice is the most effective setting for the presentation of an artist, a new work or a country in its contemporary state.

The Russian Federation Pavilion is currently in critical conditions. It would have been easier to close the building for renovation works and skip this coming architecture Biennale. This very straight forward idea, however, was never considered. Instead, we sought a different solution – a way to complete all the restoration and planning works by actively involving young professionals, architects in particular. In Italy, just like in Russia, foreign architects cannot work independently, a partnership with local architects is necessary for both legal reasons and, more practically, for their deeper knowledge of local norms.

The importance of collaboration is also stressed by Hashim Sarkis. The role of the curator of the main project of the Biennale is to frame a new critical analysis of our time. Biennale participants are invited to join the discussion and we are just as eager as everyone to talk about ‘How will we live together?’.

With this in mind (the impending renovation of the building, the wish to work with new generations of architects and the ambition to speak on the topic of the Biennale), we invited the Italian architect and professor Ippollito Pestellini Laparelli as curator of the Russian Federation Pavilion in 2020. This decision was significantly influenced by the brilliant work Pestellini Laparelli presented at the European Biennial of contemporary art Manifesta 12 in 2018. As cocurator of the project, Pestellini Laparelli investigated the complex urban fabric of Palermo, in search of new ways of coexistence.”

“I’m honored to work as curator of the next Russian Pavilion. Personally this is a wonderful opportunity to deepen my relationship with Russia through a significant cultural project. For the 2020 Biennale we will not stage an exhibition but a work in progress, by offering the opportunity for a collaborative experiment between a team of young Russian architects and a pool of colleagues aimed at the transformation of Shchusev’s architecture. In balance between fiction and reality the Pavilion will feature live the project, a temporary architectural office and the in-progress working site all at once. As a response to Hashim Sarkis’ curatorial framework, the Russian Pavilion will act as a temporary institution giving shape to a “new spatial contract” through an open and ever changing dialogue and cross pollination between those who will inhabit and work in the Pavilion – from academics to craftsmen, from designers to activists – and the audience who will interfere and use it as a vehicle of access, discussion and knowledge.”

Designed by Alexey Shchusev and opened to the public in 1914, the Russian Pavilion at the Giardini of the Venice Biennale was conceived as an architectural translation of Russian culture and values. While retaining its distinctive character it has undergone substantial modifications to respond to curatorial needs that have often prevailed over the physicality of the building, neglecting its original architectural features.

For the next Architecture Biennale 2020, the commissioner, Teresa Iarocci Mavica, the curator, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and Smart Art invite young Russian architects and multidisciplinary collectives to develop a project for the reconstruction of the Pavilion while taking into account the original design by Shchusev.

As a response to Hashim Sarkis’ curatorial theme ‘How we live together?’, the project will offer the opportunity for a collaborative experiment between the winning team and a pool of local colleagues, in the form of an extended residency in Venice during the Architecture Biennale 2020.

The Pavilion will stage live the transformation project, a temporary architectural office and the in-progress working site. The space will feature all of these dimensions at once, organically curating and displaying the development of the architectural project, research and the collaborative process associated with it.

In balance between fiction and reality the Pavilion will offer an immersive look into the metabolism of a project in the making. At the Architecture Biennale 2020, the Russian Federation Pavilion will act as a temporary institution giving shape to a “new spatial contract” through an open and ever-changing dialogue between those who will inhabit and work in the Pavilion – from academics to craftsmen, from designers to activists – and the audience that will interfere and use it as a vehicle of access, discussion and knowledge, in the spirit of maximum inclusivity.

The Pavilion embraces the curatorial framework of the Biennale and starts from the notion that an architectural project is by definition a meeting point of ideas and people. During the Biennale a public program associated to the Russian Federation Pavilion will stage a number of public events to discuss the project through various formats in its wider context.

The occupation of the folly will run between May and November 2020, launching the official start of the construction work, marking the year zero of a new attitude towards the spaces and image of the Pavilion.

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The re-design of the Pavilion is a commitment that goes beyond an exercise of set design or simple architectural accuracy, it is an occasion to rethink the relationships that the Pavilion embodies as cultural outpost in Venice. To enlarge the research and critical spectrum, participants are required to devise a project of transformation that reasons upon different trajectories:

  • The Pavilion is not just a relic of the past but rather the physical representation of Russia in a foreign country. Designed to embody Russian values of over 100 years ago, how can the project address notions of identity and cultural specificity in the age of transnational networks and movements?
  • While its general image has remained the same through time, the character of the building has changed from a welcoming array of outdoor and indoor spaces, brightened by several skylights and windows, to a more introverted box within a box indifferent to its surroundings. How can the transformation of the Pavilion forge a character that speaks once again of openness and transparency, in the spirit of the original project?
  • Situated in an extremely fragile environment the Pavilion is undeniably informed and affected by the fate of its context. What does it mean to design in a place like Venice today, epitome of the planetary climate crisis?
  • In the last thirty years we have assisted to an exponential increase of Biennales, Triennials and cultural events all around the world yet, in most cases they always require a neutral container to be filled by artists and curators. How can the specificity of the Pavilion become a cohesive component of this biennial, including the Giardini and the lagoon as part of its future constituency?
  • Starting from the set-up of this call and from the general theme of the Architecture Biennale 2020, what kind of new collaborative models can this process foster considering the specificity of the project and the larger context of the Venice Biennale?

As part of the call participants are also asked to develop a concept for the installation of a temporary studio within the Pavilion, which will act as the primary working and gathering space during the Biennale. This will ultimately be the object of the exhibition organized in the rooms of the Pavilion, and it will stage the contribution of all actors involved in the open working site. Far from being a mere mise-en-scene, this performative component will be the focus of the experiment, whereas the installation is meant to serve as infrastructure and display for the different activities that will take place within the Pavilion.

What we expect is not a dramatic obliteration of the heritage of the Pavilion but rather an intelligent approach to operate critically on its historical layers. The idea is to strategically implement those changes on the building that will transform it into an inclusive space conceived to adapt to next-years uses, from the Art Biennale 2021 onwards.

The temporary studio should perform simultaneously as a place of work, with proper workstations and everything that a temporary office might need, as an open archive that speaks of the Pavilion itself and of the making of a new exhibition space, and as a stage for gatherings, public events and performances. As a whole it should serve as an ensemble to facilitate the cross pollination of all agents involved in the process, and to share with the audience the work in progress in the form of an incremental exhibit and open conversation.

During this process the winning team will collaborate with the curator and with a group of local experts, from young architects to technical consultants, that will participate in the different phases: from concept to realization. The project will enter officially on site in November 2020 and it will be completed during the spring of 2021.


Each team should produce:

  • A report of no more than 1,500 words which clearly outlines proposals regarding the architectural project and the exhibition approach. This should include the ambitions of the team in relationship to the trajectories described in the call and the overall curatorial framework of the Architecture Biennale 2020, but also the methodology of collaboration with the extended team.
  • A maximum of three A3 (portrait or landscape) that shows the spatial approach on the Pavilion: plans, sections and visualizations of the interventions on the architecture of the Pavilion and a visual description of the patterns of occupation of the Pavilion during the Biennale as workspace and exhibition.
  • Additional but not mandatory materials might include: video, models or other forms of simulation.
  • Team composition and CV of the office and / or the CV of the singular members including background, expertise and areas of interest.
  • A portfolio of the works done by the office in the last five years or a collection of the works authored by the singular members of the team.
  • Indicative schedule and cost report.
*All the aforementioned materials should be sent in as a single PDF file not exceeding 25 MB limit.

Schedule of the Competition

Call Launch
Call Submission
Announcement of the winning team

Selection and Evaluation Criteria

  • Coherence, clarity and feasibility of the architectural approach.
  • Artistic and visual impact of the temporary office / exhibition proposal.
  • Originality of the models of collaboration.
  • Composition and interdisciplinarity of the team.


The call is open to any Russian architectural firms and interdisciplinary collectives based in Russia or elsewhere, with proven experience across the fields of architecture, exhibition making and research. Participating architects should be up to 40 years old.


Download the floor plans and sections of the Pavilion as well as historical materials and pictures.
You can
the information about the Pavilion and the terms of the open call here.