Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendoça is delighted. Following the press conference presenting the program of the 18th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale, which will take place from May 20 to November 26, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education (equivalent to the Minister of Culture) of the Vatican confirmed that the latter would once again have a pavilion at the international event.
The Holy See had obtained, during its very first participation in the Architecture Biennale in 2018, a critical and public success with a set of ten chapels commissioned from great architects. Designed as an aesthetic journey and a spiritual journey, this pavilion fitted in perfectly with the small wood on the southern tip of Saint-Georges-Majeur, a small island located opposite the Doge’s Palace, where it had attracted 140,000 visitors in six months ( i.e. half of the total attendance of the 16th edition). It is again in this idyllic setting that the Vatican will be presenting its architectural exhibition this year.
As in 2018, the idea of Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendoça is to show that “the Church is the friend of the artists whose accomplishments it wishes to celebrate and highlight in order to develop a richer dialogue and better mutual understanding”is clarified in a press release from the Department of Culture, which hopes that this will encourage this type of involvement in the cultural events of the Church at the local level.
Moments of encounter with the Benedictine community in the garden
In order to respond to the general theme of the 18th Venice Biennale, “The laboratory of the future”, as proposed by its curator, the Ghanaian and Scottish architect Lesley Lokko who seeks to highlight African projects, the Vatican pavilion has chosen as an axis of reflection “social friendship”.
A theme dear to Pope Francis, who presented his vision of the culture of encounter in the encyclicals Laudato si’ (2015) et Brothers all (2020), underlined its Minister of Culture, who wishes to register this pavilion as part of the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the pontificate of Francis.
The curator of the pavilion, the Italian architect Roberto Cremascoli, has imagined a route through the rooms and the garden of the Benedictine monastery, now occupied by the Cini Foundation, which will invite visitors “to take care of the planet as we take care of ourselves and to celebrate the culture of encounter”. An installation on this theme of encounter was commissioned from the great Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza, winner of the Pritzker in 1992 and author of several churches in France and Portugal.
The garden is to be redesigned by Studio Albori, an Italian multidisciplinary collective combining architecture with ecological and participatory processes. This outdoor space, including a vegetable garden, a chicken coop and areas of contemplation, will be open to visitors in order to create the possibility of a dialogue with the members of the Benedictine community to whom the garden is usually reserved.