Lifescapes Beyond Bigness; UAE’s 16th Architecture Exhibition at the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2018

Text by Farah Abdel Jawad
Photos courtesy of The UAE National Pavilion

The national UAE pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale showcased its 16thInternational Architecture Exhibition, which played along the lines of a contrast between UAE’s under-appreciated human-scale urban neighbourhoods and its iconic corridors of “bigness”.

Installation view of the National Pavilion United Arab Emirates exhibition Lifescapes Beyond Bigness at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.


The pavilion chiefly revolves around the exploration and analysis of four “human-scale” urban landscapes including residential neighborhoods, networks of streets and alleyways. The expressive display of the UAE’s pavilion highlights the interplay between the physicality of UAE’s architecture and the dynamic choreography of everyday life in “human-scale”.

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To achieve the concluding result, the curator Dr. Khaled Alawadi, alongside his research team, had to comprehensivelyexplore the morphology and social rhythm of the four typologies through the usage of different observation techniques and spatial mapping with a reliance on a more informal method of using personal stories and case studies that would offer an inclusive insight into the anthropology of each research site. Visitors will be able to experience the sensations and morphological details of the four typologies through three-dimensional mosaic models suspended at the exhibition’s core within an enclosed environment.


When Dr. Khaled Alawadi was asked about the motives behind the pavilion he answered “Lifescapes Beyond Bigness is an effort to look beyond the monumental scale of UAE’s most iconic architecture. It explores how human scale landscapes are flexible, generous, and adaptable in the promotion of community engagement, social encounters, and pedestrian urbanism, from impromptu playgrounds to street-corner gardens.”


The pavilion will feature a range of visual aid for the general audience like expressive photographs, architectural drawings and three-dimensional models that ensure a deeper understanding of the theme the design team are trying to portray through their work. Graphs of behavioral data, typological maps and technical drawings will specifically highlight how the physical environment influences daily social activities.

Opening its doors on the 24th of May 2018, the exhibition will present the simplicity of lifescapes in the hidden urban pockets through three main exhibition components that respond to this year’s theme of “Freespace”.

Beyond Bigness: a bird’s-eye view of Al Satwa, one of Dubai’s humanscale neighborhoods, contrasted by a corridor of “bigness ” in the background.

A sikka/alleyway in downtown Abu Dhabi is claimed for prayers.


UAE’s Architecture Exhibition will be curated by Dr. Khaled Alawadi,the first UAE national scholar to specialize in the design of sustainable cities. Dr.Alawadi is an Emirati urban planner and a prestigious architect with contemporary approaches and a vivid futuristic vision. He is also the Assistant Professor of Sustainable Urbanism at Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute. Most of his professional work and research is fixated on urban design and housing with a slight preference to research revolving around the connections between sustainable development and the built environment.

More photos of UAE National Pavilion Opening Day

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