La Biennale di Venezia. The Laboratory of the Future

The 18th International Architecture Exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November 2023 at the Giardini, the Arsenale and Forte Marghera. International Architecture Exhibition entitled The Laboratory of the Future curated by Lesley Lokko, organised by la Biennale di Venezia.
The pre-opening will take place on 18 and 19 May, the awards and opening ceremony will be held on Saturday 20 May 2023.

What does it mean to be ‘an agent of change?’ (…) In May last year,” recalled Lesley Lokko, “I spoke several times about the Exhibition as ‘a story’, a narrative that evolves in space. Today I have a different vision. An architecture exhibition is both a moment and a process. (…) Besides the desire to tell a story, issues of production, resources and representation are also central to the way an architecture exhibition comes into the world, yet they are rarely acknowledged and discussed. It was clear from the outset that The Laboratory of the Future would adopt the concept of ‘change’ as its essential gesture.”
“(…) For the first time, the spotlight is on Africa and its diaspora, on that fluid and intertwined culture of people of African descent that now embraces the world. What do we want to say? How will what we say change anything? And, perhaps most important of all, how will what we say influence and engage what “others” say, making the exhibition not so much a single story, but a set of narratives reflecting the fascinating, splendid kaleidoscope of ideas, contexts, aspirations and meanings that each voice expresses in response to the problems of its time?

The Laboratory of the Future is an exhibition divided into six parts. It includes 89 participants, more than half of whom are from Africa or the African diaspora. The gender balance is equal and the average age of the participants is 43, while it drops to 37 in the Curator’s Special Projects section, where the youngest is 24.
“At the heart of every project is the most important and decisive tool: imagination,” explained Lesley Lokko. It is impossible to build a better world if you don’t imagine it first. The Laboratory of the Future begins in the Central Pavilion at the Giardini, where 16 studies representing a distillation of force majeure (major force) of African and diasporic architectural production have been brought together. It then moves to the Arsenale complex, with the Dangerous Liaisons section – also present at Forte Marghera, in Mestre – flanked by the Curator’s Special Projects, which for the first time is a category as vast as the others. Both spaces feature works by young African and diasporic ‘practitioners’, the Guests from the Future, whose work directly confronts the two themes of the exhibition, decolonisation and decarbonisation, providing a snapshot of future practices and ways of seeing and being in the world. (…) We have expressly chosen to qualify the participants as ‘practitioners’,” the Curator clarified, “and not as ‘architects’, ‘urban planners’, ‘designers’, ‘landscape architects’, ‘engineers’ or ‘academics’, because we believe that the dense and complex conditions of Africa and a rapidly hybridising world require a different and broader understanding of the term ‘architect’.

The President of the Venice Biennale, Roberto Cicutto, said: “The Curator starts from her continent of origin, Africa, to recount all its historical, economic, climatic and political criticalities and to say to everyone “a lot has already happened to us what is happening to the rest of the world. Let us confront each other to understand where we have gone wrong so far and how the future should be addressed’. It is a starting point that invokes the listening of segments of humanity left out of the debate, and opens up a multiplicity of languages silenced for a long time by the one that was considered dominant by right in a vital and unstoppable confrontation.”
“I believe that this is the real task of the Venice Biennale as an institution, and not only with regard to Architecture. We must start from here in order to seize the opportunity to make a qualitative leap in our approach towards all other disciplines as well“.

For the first time ever, the Architecture Biennale includes Biennale College Architecture, which will take place from 25 June to 22 July 2023. During a four-week teaching programme, fifteen international lecturers will work with fifty students, graduates, academics and emerging professionals from all over the world and selected by Lesley Lokko through an open call process.
The programme of The Laboratory of the Future is enriched by Carnival, a cycle of meetings, conferences, round tables, films and performances during the six months of the exhibition, aimed at exploring the themes of the Biennale Architettura 2023.

La Biennale di Venezia is concretely committed to the crucial objective of combating climate change, promoting a more sustainable model for the design, staging and execution of all its activities. In 2022 it obtained carbon neutrality certification for all its events held throughout the year, thanks to accurate data collection on the cause of CO2 emissions generated by the events themselves and the adoption of consequent measures.
For more information visit

Cover image: photo by Andrea Avezzù. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia
Photo 1: Lesley Lokko, photo by Jacopo Salvi. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia
Photo 2: As far as the eye can see, Accra, Ghana. Photo by Festus Jackson Davis
Photo 3: Woman dancing across puddles, Osu, Accra, Ghana. Photo by Festus Jackson Davis
Photo 4: Kaneshie market from the air, Kaneshie, Accra, Ghana. Photo by Festus Jackson Davis
Photo 5: Adjaye Associates, Micro Kwaeε, 2022. Render and Digital Composite 14.7″ x 8.27″, Courtesy of Adjaye Associates