How will we live together?

The 17th Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition’s Curator Hashim Sarkis challenges the exhibitors to imagine new possibilities and in his curatorial statement, elaborates that “We need a new spatial contract. In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together.”

The Hong Kong Institute of Architects Biennale Foundation (HKIABF) and Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) are collaborating, with The Hong Kong Institute of Architects as partner and Create Hong Kong of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as the lead sponsor, to organize the Hong Kong Collateral Event at the Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition.


Our curatorial team has selected “Redistribution: Land, People, and Environment” as the theme for the Hong Kong Collateral Event at the 17th Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition. The exhibitors are requested to propose innovative ideas on the redistribution of the three critical resources to enhance Hong Kong’s liveabilty. The exhibitors are to propose creative solutions on how we can harmoniously live together by designing caring architecture, constructing people-centric urbanism, and respecting the environment, both built and natural. The curatorial process encourages the exhibitors to work collaboratively in teams – each with members from the status quo/ corporation/ large establishment, young architect/ entrepreneur designer/ artist, and researcher/ academics/ NGO. The required working methodology from such collaborative process intensifies the exhibitors’ searches and understandings about the meaning of working and living together.


The exhibitors are requested to address various Hong Kong challenges as well as opportunities. The exhibitors will showcase their thoughts on how to utilise the available land resources and its potential redistribution within the Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area network cities to improve liveability, the aging Hong Kong population and possible global talent migration and redistribution to Hong Kong resulting in diversity and Hong Kong’s improved competitiveness, and last but not least, how to make use of technology and take advantage of Hong Kong as a high-density compact vertical city to lead in sustainable development, reduce the city carbon footprint, and redistribute the environmental impact for sustainability and urban wellness. The exhibitors are asked to suggest ways to shape a better future for Hong Kong through a responsible redistribution of critical resources and accountable social institutions.


To heighten the sense of contextual relevancy, the exhibition venue in Venice is purposefully disorientated with the appearances of outdoor/ indoor being reversed. The outdoor space is set up as indoor space whilst the indoor space is revealed as outdoor space by special lighting effects. The contradictions between the appearance of the two distorted spaces and the reality of the spaces impose a question of how the surrounding context and appearance can affect one’s perception of reality, very much like a social construct of what constitutes acceptable behavior would affect what happens within a society.


Furthermore, the exhibits are put behind enclosure panels with special cut out openings for observation from a specified point of view. The setting denies the freedom of unrestricted 360-degree viewing from all angles of the exhibit on display by the viewer. The framing of the exhibits through a specific viewing lens posts the question of what constitutes an objective presentation and can a correct interpretation of reality be made from one single view point. Such framing selectively excludes as well as includes simultaneously the reality that has been carefully chosen for viewing.


How does one understand reality when conflicts arise as one changes one’s point of view? Does reality, like society, can take multiple forms since it is what one mentally constructs it to be. If reality is understood differently by different individuals by willing it into being, can there be a collective point of view, and if there is one, how can the architect access and align with such a view point and create generous space to enable people to live harmoniously together?


As the redistribution approach requires an analysis of changing points of views, the exhibitors, made up of veteran corporations, young talents and academics/ NGOs are challenged to address their different points of views and produce exhibits showcasing their response and insight on the exhibition redistribution theme. The exhibits will be displayed in Venice from 22 May 2021 to 21 November 2021, with a pre-exhibition in Hong Kong in January to February.