The Fold; Pakistan’s first National Pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2018

Text by Farah Abel Jawad

For the first time ever, Pakistan will exhibit its National Pavilion at the 2018 International Architecture Biennale in Venice with the contribution and help of a Dubai-based creative platform “Antidote Art & Design”.

Curated by Architect Sami Chohan with the help of his design team Bilal Kapadia, Durreshahwar Alvi, Mustafa Mehdi, Salman Jawed and Zeba Asad , the Pavilion responds to the theme of “Freespace” by artistically mirroring the reality of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. Karachi is a densely-populated city with around 60% of its 20 million inhabitants residing in informal settlements which have majorly inspired the idea behind the Pavilion.

The renowned Pakistani Architect Sami Chohan graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree and received his Master of Arts degree in Interior-Architectural Design from Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences in Germany. Sami Chohan, the only curator of Pakistan’s Pavilion, is currently serving as Chair of the Department of Architecture at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.


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Pakistan’s Pavilion, articulated as “The Fold”, mainly reflects the physical and social dimensions of the open spaces embedded within Karachi’s informal settlements that have in a way created their own regions and small corridors between the multiple layers of closely-packed buildings that facilitate human activity and their daily lives. In these areas, even the open spaces consist of street and alleys which are usually reduced to narrow corridors as well.

Despite the restrained physical conditions and social activities between the small corridors, these informal regions still maintain a spirit of liveliness and vitality that surprisingly make enough space with a welcoming sense of community between the inhabitants which “builds and thrives on consensus” as the curator highlighted.

Within this context, the design team created the Pavilion which translates the under-valued reality of Karachi in a simplistic contemporary approach that invites visitors to interpret “Freespace” as a byproduct of unity, mutuality and harmony in societies. The Pavilion highlights a new whole angle of perceiving Karachi’s reality by fixating on how those tapered corridors could act as vibrant arenas for the exchange of ideas, growth, human interaction, social activities and play.

Situated in the Levante section of the Gardens of Marinaressa, Pakistan’s Pavilion is composed of unevenly spaced vertical columns that consume only a small portion of the Garden. As people come in closer contact and assessment, the layer of verticals reveals itself as a singular folding system, with the intention to confine, while partially revealing what it encloses.

Theoretically, the Pavilion exemplifies the real-life scenario that people in Katachi and other similar regions experience by directing the spotlights on the verticality of the tangible and intangible restrictions of informal settlements there through the Pavilion.


Project info:

Staged by Antidote Art & Design and Coalesce Design Studio; sponsored by Khaadi

Curated by Sami Chohan with design team: Bilal Kapadia, Durreshahwar Alvi, Mustafa Mehdi, Salman Jawed and Zeba Asad

Located at the Levante section of the Gardens of Marinaressa, along Riva dei Sette Martiri

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