Jefa Greenaway and Tristan Wong Venice Architecture Biennale
Jefa Greenaway and Tristan Wong at the Venice Architecture 2020 Biennale launch. Photos Alexander Mayes

Leading Indigenous architect and academic Jefa Greenaway of Greenaway Architects has been selected alongside SJB Architects director Tristan Wong as creative directors for the Australian pavilion at the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale.

  • Jefa Greenaway was keynote speaker at The Fifth Estate’s Tomorrowland18 symposium. See the ebook covering his presentation and the full event

For the first time, the pavilion will bring Australia’s Pacific neighbours into the fold and explore the unparalleled architectural and cultural diversity of the Australasian region.

The project, called “In | between”, is a collaboration between the two Melbourne-based architects and architectural anthropologist Elizabeth Grant, writer/producer Tim Ross, designer Aaron Puls and Graduate of Architecture Jordyn Milliken.

It responds to the event curator architect Hashim Sarkis’ theme “How will we live together?” by extending a collaborative arm to Australia’s Pacific neighbours.

Key to the vision is highlighting the connection between First Nations people across the entire Australasian region, including Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.

Speaking at an event on Tuesday night in Sydney attended by The Fifth Estate that announced the winning bid, Jefa Greenaway, a fast-rising star who’s shifting the conversation about the role of Indigenous knowledge in shaping places, said that architects are waking up to their social and environmental obligations.

“There’s a dawning realisation that the built environment professions, and architecture in particular, that we have a social contract, that we have responsibilities and obligations to the environment and the communities we engage with.

“This proposition is seeking to create an immersive experience that talks to connection to country, that acknowledges some of the layers of history and memory.”

Greenaway wants to use this opportunity to showcase “our shared humanity and culture,” warts and all.

“It’s about understanding that we are connected through 60,000 years of history and with that comes a deep knowledge and understanding of place.

“It enables us to understand there are important stories to be told, and we can start to embed our projects and stories with a deep narrative that reveals some of those difficult truths and hidden stories, and makes them visible.”

He said that the team is particularly engaged with the understanding of diversity and “wish to embrace that as part of the story”.

“It’s an opportunity to share and engage and realise that Indigenous knowledge systems bring with them a lot of wisdom, and I think we are now at a level of cultural maturity where there is design that engages with this in a meaningful way.”

SJB’s Tristan Wong said that the theme is particularly meaningful given the current political climate.

“… it’s an incredible and meaningful topic for this year, particularly with walls going up between countries, significant displacement of people going on, loss of culture and a climate crisis right on our doorstep.”

Recognising that these issues aren’t contained by borders, Wong said “the first thing we started thinking about with this proposition was ‘how do we reach out beyond our own shores?’

“We thought this was a great way of talking to the theme, we’re not an isolated nation, or country, or peoples, there’s a much broader audience.”

The project will explore what’s going on in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia in architecture and design, and what the rest of the world has to learn from these regions.

It will also address the shared challenges of these regions: colonial settlement, occupation and modernisation.

Event photos by Alexander Mayes.

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