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La Biennale di Venezia 2021: the Politecnico for the Chinese National Pavilion

1 October 2021

The China Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2021 has opened to the public. As it was not possible for the Chinese curatorial team to travel to Venice, the supervision of the exhibition design and content curated by Zhang Li - Dean of the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University and Visiting Professor at the Politecnico in 2018 - was entrusted to a group of researchers and students from the Politecnico (coordinated by Edoardo Bruno and Marta Mancini from China Room research center and the Politecnico's Department of Architecture and Design-DAD).

Thanks to the collaboration with Tsinghua University, the Politecnico has been appointed to supervise the construction of the Pavilion, becoming the interpreter and site manager of the curatorial project. The installation responds to the theme of the 17th edition "How Will We Live Together?" through the exploration of the "Yuan-er": an architectural typology rooted in China since over 2000 years. The "Yuan-er" stands for the multi-family courtyard building, understood not only in its physicality but also in the sense of community aroused by its characteristics.

Curved wall inside the China Pavilion. The installation is designed to guide the visitor through an experiential path between cosy spaces and multimedia contents ©Prospekt

With the title "Yuan-er, a Courtyard-ology: From the Mega to the Micro", the Pavilion invites us to reflect on how architecture can contribute to cohesion and sociality by guiding the visitor through an experiential path that ends in the installation in the Virgin Garden, intended as the proper Yuan-er.

PAD street inside the China Pavilion. The devices show interviews with 100 architects (Chinese or working in China, including China Room PoliTo) and their design interpretations of the "Yuan-er".

The team of researchers and students, both Italian and Chinese, worked in close contact with local and Chinese companies reinterpreting the original project, offering multidisciplinary skills between architecture and information technology and ensuring a coherent realisation of the exhibition spaces, sometimes readapted to the conditions on site. The team functioned as a "bridge" between Italy and China, between the craftsmen who worked in both countries to create the components, between the curator's vision and the final spatial rendering.

The opening ceremony took place online. Politecnico team and the Rector's Delegate for International Relations with China and Asian Countries Michele Bonino connected from Venice to the Ministry of Culture in Beijing, together with the curator, Chinese authorities and many of the almost 100 architects (Chinese or working in China, including China Room PoliTO) invited to exhibit their interpretations of the "Yuan-er" in the Pavilion.