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Irish Architects Pave the Way in Venice

Published: Thursday, November 01, 2018

RIAI leads large Members Study Trip to La Biennale di Venezia supported by Roadstone
RIAI Presents Honorary Membership to Biennale President Paolo Baratta

Photo of the Presentation of an Honorary Membership of the RIAI by Andrea Avezzù. Pictured from left to right are: Paolo Baratta, President La Biennale di Venezia; Yvonne Farrell, Co-Curator of FREESPACE, the 16th International Architecture Exhibition; and RIAI President David Browne

The RIAI led a delegation of RIAI-registered architects to the Venice Architecture Biennale in late October.  As well as addressing the academic side of architecture, the Biennale provides an opportunity for architects and designers to showcase new projects, arranged in different pavilions, each with different themes. For the first time since it’s inauguration in 1980, the Architecture Biennale was curated by Irish architects, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects. The pair, were given the task to curate an exhibition space the length of O’Connell Street, highlighting global architectural issues. To do this, they adopted the theme of FREESPACE – a word which describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda. The RIAI were supported on the Members Study Trip by Roadstone.


Yvonne Farrell and members of her curatorial team led special tours for members of the RIAI who had organised the trip. RIAI President David Browne, CEO Kathryn Meghen and RIAI members were joined by members of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA), giving a total attendance of close to 90.  Also present were the curators of the official Irish Pavilion at the Biennale, Free Market, who provided insights into the challenges and opportunities experienced by Irish market towns, who have suffered economic decline and vacancy in recent decades.  The RIAI have supported both exhibitions – FREESPACE and Free Market.

One the occasion of the special members’ visit, the RIAI President David Browne presented an Honorary RIAI Membership to Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia, for his “contribution to the quality of architectural design and the built environment through his dedication to La Biennale di Venezia over many years”. As President of La Biennale di Venezia, Paolo Baratta heads up the creative disciplines of Architecture, Art, Film, Music, Theatre and Dance. In his opening remarks to FREESPACE, Paolo Baratta said the “the absence of architecture makes the world poorer and diminishes the level of public welfare, otherwise reached by economic and demographic developments. To rediscover architecture means to renew a strong desire for the quality of the spaces where we live, which are a form of public wealth that needs to be constantly protected, renovated and created”.

The RIAI President David Browne presented an Honorary RIAI Membership to Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia

Born in Milan in 1939, Paolo Baratta studied engineering (Polytechnic of Milan) and Economy (Cambridge). He has a long and distinguished career including as a former Italian Government Minister and former Chairman of Bankers’ Trust S.p.A. (1997-2000). He is currently Chairman of the Venice Biennale Foundation and earlier this year, was made an Officier de la Légion d'Honneur of France. 

The achievement of Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara has shone a light not only on their practice but on Irish architecture as a whole. The Venice Architecture Biennale is the most prestigious architectural exhibition in the world. FREESPACE features 71 invited participants including four Irish practices: de Blacam and Meagher, Hall McKnight from Belfast, Niall McLaughlin Architects and O'Donnell + Tuomey.  In Close Encounter (pictured above) Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara also invited 16 Irish practices to respond architecturally to an acclaimed work by a 19th or 20th century architect, emphasising the importance of learning from our past built heritage. By the time, the Biennale closes at the end of November, over half a million visitors will have seen FREESPACE curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara.


The RIAI were supported on the Members Study Trip by Roadstone.

The RIAI were supported on the Members Study Trip by Roadstone.

Categories: Architecture | Exhibitions | Press Releases | RIAI Membership | RIAI Press Release

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