Press Room

Weitzman Faculty and Students Confront Climate Change, Extinction at the Biennale Architettura 2021

The theme of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, “How will we live together?” has assumed a new significance as COVID-19 has swept across the globe. “The world is putting new challenges in front of architecture,” as Curator Hashim Sarkis has said, while pre-existing challenges like climate change and equity have only become more pressing since the Architecture Biennale was announced. Eight designer-educators on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design, along with their students, take up these challenges in their contribution to the 17th Exhibition at the Central Pavilion and at this year’s Italian Pavilion.

At Sarkis’s invitation, Richard Weller, who is professor and chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and co-executive director of The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at Penn, will present three bodies of work as part of the As One Planet exhibition in the Central Pavilion. The Hotspot Cities Project pinpoints the places where urbanization is on a collision course with biodiversity; the World Park envisions a global network of territories protecting multiple species threatened with extinction; and Not the Blue Marble re-imagines the view of Earth seen by the Apollo 11 astronauts in the wake of environmental collapse (pictured above). Weller’s fabrication team included alums Chieh Huang, Zuzanna Drozdz, Nanxi Dong, Shannon Rafferty, Lucy Whitacre, and Lujian Zhang; and students Oliver Atwood, Emily Bunker, Tone Chu, Francesca Garzilli, Rob Levinthal, and Allison Nkwocha.

Winka Dubbeldam, who is Miller Professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at Penn and director of the Advanced Research and Innovation (ARI) Lab at Penn, serves as one of the creative directors for City X Venice at the Italian Pavilion, coordinated by Tom Kovac and Alessandro Melis, respectively, to “investigate and identify dynamics of change and engagement with nature.”

Dubbeldam’s ARI presentation will include work by six faculty members: Masoud Akbarzadeh, assistant professor of architecture and director of the Polyhedral Structures Lab (complex geometries); Dorit Aviv, assistant professor of architecture and director of the Thermal Architecture Lab (resilience); Karel Klein, lecturer in architecture and co-director at Ruy Klein (artificial intelligence); Ferda Kolatan, associate professor of architecture and founding partner at SU11 (synthetic nature); Laia Mogas-Soldevila, assistant professor of architecture (material science); and Robert Stuart-Smith, assistant professor of architecture and director of the Autonomous Manufacturing Lab (robotics and autonomous systems).

Archi-Tectonics, the New York-based firm where Dubbeldam is founding partner, will celebrate the publication of its new book Strange Objects, New Solids, and Massive Things (Actar, 2021) at the CityX Venice vernissage in Venice in September (date to be announced).

The Biennale runs from May 22 to November 21, 2021.