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biennials.ch
17th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia
01 May - 01 Nov 2020
Swiss Pavilion
Competition for the Architecture Biennale 2020

The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia has commissioned a team of architects comprising Mounir Ayoub, Vanessa Lacaille, Fabrice Aragno and Pierre Szczepski from Laboratoire d’architecture in Geneva to create the Swiss Pavilion exhibition at the 2020 Architecture Biennale in Venice. Their project was chosen out of 51 applications. It deals with the spatial perception of Swiss borders.

The International Architecture Exhibition (Biennale Architettura) in Venice is one of the most important platforms for architecture and urban planning in the world. The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia for the second time conducted a competition to choose a team, which is to represent Switzerland at the 17th edition of the Biennale opening in May 2020. Out of the 51 applications submitted, seven teams were picked to present their project. Five of these projects were subsequently selected for a second round. At the unanimous recommendation of the Biennale jury appointed by Pro Helvetia, the assignment to create the exhibition at the Swiss Pavilion went to Mounir Ayoub, Vanessa Lacaille, Fabrice Aragno and Pierre Szczepski from Laboratoire d’architecture in Geneva.

The project 
The winning team had opted for the politically topical theme of «borders», exploring it as a spatial phenomenon. The project also raises the question of how borders are perceived by people who actually live close to them. In what different ways do people experience borders? How do we relate to them? What spatial and physical dimensions does a border take on? In order to find some answers, the team actively involves inhabitants from the catchment area of the Swiss borders. Drawing from this research, the team aims to create an exhibition that speaks specifically of Swiss borders, but also raises for debate the subject of borders in general.  

The project team  
Mounir Ayoub, architect and journalist; Vanessa Lacaille, architect and garden designer; Fabrice Aragno, film director, producer and cutter; and Pierre Szczepski, painter,  sculptor and model maker. All four work together at Laboratoire d'architecture in Geneva. The firm combines architectural and landscaping experiments with research and writing activities.

The jury 
The jury was made up of Céline Guibat (jury president, architect EPFL, SIA, Zurich, Sion), Anna Hohler (architecture critic, UNIL, SIA, Lausanne), Verena Konrad (architecture curator, Vorarlberg, Austria), Lukas Meyer (architect ETH, FAS, Bellinzona) and Rob Wilson (architecture writer, The architects’ journal, London, UK).  
 
This year, 51 dossiers were submitted to Pro Helvetia and in accordance to the competition regulations, seven projects have been selected for the shortlist of the competition.
 
These seven projects have been chosen by Pro Helvetia based on the recommendation of a specialised jury:
  • «Les villes suisses se jettent à l'eau», a project of Paysage n’co sarl: Valérie Hoffmeyer, Monique Keller and Sylvie Kleiber - Geneva
  • «Open Limit», a project of LVPH Architectes: Laurent Vuilleumier and Paul Humbert - Pampigny
  • «The seven rules», a project of studioSML: Sara Cavicchioli, Léo Collomb, Max Collomb and Lisa Collomb - Lausanne
  • «Thicknesses of the Swiss border», a project of Le Laboratoire d'architecture: Mounir Ayoub, Vanessa Lacaille, Fabrice Aragno and Pierre Szczepski - Geneva
  • «True Story», a project of Patrick Arnold and Benjamin Groothuijse - Zurich
  • «VILLA SVIZZERA», a project of Josephine Eigner, Michelle Geilinger, Dennis Häusler and Jan Westerheide - Zurich
  • «Walla», a project of Mikael Blomfelt, Roger Boltshauser, Andres Bosshard, Veronika Spierenburg and Sabine von Fischer - Zurich
In the first round of the selection procedure, the jury conducted three stages of evaluation, which resulted in seven projects remaining in the competition. In stage one, the projects submitted were closely assessed and compared. Each jury member was instructed to personally rate the 51 entries and to pick a selection of them for the actual evaluation. Stages two and three consisted of comparing the results and cutting the number of projects retained down to seven.
 
The seven projects have been presented to the jury in a meeting in November 2018. The candidates that have been selected based on their presentation have been able to pursue and develop their projects for two months before the final assessment.