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Venice Biennale

Biennale Architettura 2023: Swiss Pavilion now open

© Samuele Cherubini

Curators and exhibitors:
Karin Sander and Philip Ursprung


The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia

Sandi Paucic, Project Leader

Rachele Giudici Legittimo, Project Manager

Media Moment
Friday 19 May 2023 at 11:00 am

Opening of the pavilion:
Thursday 18 May 2023 at 2.45 pm

18 and 19 May 2023

20 May to 26 November 2023

Swiss Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale di Venezia

Additional information and press images available on: biennials.ch

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Opening speeches

in their original language

Swiss Pavilion now open

The Swiss Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia was opened today in the presence of Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, and Philippe Bischof, Director of Pro Helvetia. The building, designed by Bruno Giacometti, will present the exhibition «Neighbours» by Karin Sander and Philip Ursprung until 26 November. Their project focuses on two national pavilions and a wall that connects as well as separates. Thus, the artist and the architecture historian offer audiences new perspectives on territorial and other relationships within the Giardini della Biennale. In the Arsenale, the main exhibition «The Laboratory of the Future» includes two Swiss contributions by Ursula Biemann and the collective Le laboratoire d’architecture.

In his speech, the President of the Confederation, Alain Berset, emphasised that

“the wall has the reputation of stirring up differences and cultivating misunderstandings by separating peoples, whereas its primary function is only to separate spaces. Karin Sander and Philip Ursprung reverse the perspective, offering a fascinating reflection: Ultimately, is there nothing closer than what lies just on the other side of the wall?”.

“Laboratories examine certain times and their significance for today. The project by Sander/Ursprung is political in a subtle way by showing how forms of neighbourhood, be they spatial, constructional or national, can shift in meaning. It also reveals that architecture is never neutral, it forms an important part of world history”,

noted Philippe Bischof, Director of Pro Helvetia.

On the project «Neighbours»

Following an open competition, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia selected artist Karin Sander and architecture historian Philip Ursprung, who both teach as professors at ETH Zurich, to design the Swiss exhibition for the 18th Architecture Biennale in Venice. Their project «Neighbours» spotlights the spatial and constructional proximity of the Swiss Pavilion to its Venezuelan neighbour.

In their exhibition manifesto, the artist and art historian write:

“Instead of being a space containing an exhibition, instead of hosting a display of something else, this year the Swiss Pavilion is exhibiting itself. ‘Neighbours’ is a conversation over the shared boundary of the pavilions of Switzerland (1951–52, Bruno Giacometti) and Venezuela (1954–56, Carlo Scarpa). We see the two pavilions as a spatial continuity. Competition between national pavilions is a relic from the past. The fixation on national representation has narrowed our horizons. We learn only through contact with others. Pavilions, like all of us, should take more care of each other.”

Supporting programme and publication

The exhibition at the Swiss Pavilion is flanked by a supporting programme in Palazzo Trevisan degli Ulivi and a publication that expands on the various aspects of the exhibition.

The project team

Karin Sander is an artist and professor of Art and Architecture, and Philip Ursprung is professor of the History of Art and Architecture, both at ETH Zurich.

For their project «Neighbours», Sander and Ursprung are supported by managing curator Sassa Trülzsch, project leader Tobias Becker and researcher Berit Seidel.

Two Swiss presentations in the main exhibition, The Laboratory of the Future 

By invitation of the curator Lesley Lokko, the Swiss artist Ursula Biemann (Zurich) and the collective Le laboratoire d’architecture (Vanessa Lacaille and Mounir Ayoub, Geneva) – who represented Switzerland at Biennale Architettura 2021 – will take part in the main exhibition (in the section entitled Dangerous Liaisons) and will feature experimental practices that seek to expand our understanding of what it means to decolonise knowledge and production.
Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia sponsors both presentations in the central exhibition.

Press release of the Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia, 18.05.2023

Photo: © Samuele Cherubini

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The application portal myprohelvetia will be updated from 1.1.-7.1.2024. Due to these changes, open applications must be finalized and submitted via the current online portal (myprohelvetia.ch) by the latest 23:59 on 31 December 2023. Until this date, the deadlines and criteria outlined in the current guidelines and calls for applications apply. New applications can be created and submitted in the application portal as of 8 January 2024.