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BLUE: The Netherlands at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Place: Venice, Country: Italy
Curator: Malkit Shoshan
Commisssioner: Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam
Text by Riccardo Bianchini
All photos © Inexhibit, 2016

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The Dutch pavilion wrapped in blue at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016, photo © Inexhibit, 2016 

BLUE: Architecture of UN Peacekeeping Missions – The Netherlands at the Venice Biennale 2016

A “total-blue” pavilion welcomes visitors of the Dutch exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.

Blue is everywhere here, from the net fabric wrapping the pavilion itself, to walls and furniture, up to the title of the exhibition, curated by Malkit Shoshan, a research fellow at the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. But why?

The answer is simple and articulated at the same time: a specific type of blue (35.7% red, 57.3% green and 89.8% blue) is the flag-color of the United Nations as well as the their peacekeeping mission carried out across the world by the so-called “Blue Helmets”.

But “the Blue people” (for their indigo clothes) is also a name which usually identifies the Tuareg nomadic populations living in the North-eastern part of Africa, including Mali, where a UN compound has been built and is managed by the Netherlands.

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“Blue” exhibition, Dutch pavilion, installation view, photos © Inexhibit, 2016

Therefore, the exhibition focuses on the role architecture could play in developing strategies and solution to help populations living in conflict areas.

The approach proposed by Malkit Shoshan suggests to add “Design” to the terms “Defence, Diplomacy, and Development” that traditionally constitute the so-called “Integrated Approach” on which UN’s peacekeeping missions are based.

By examining the case-study of the Netherlands-led Camp Castor in Gao, Mali – as well as by presenting conversations with military engineers, anthropologists, economists, activists, and policy makers – the exhibition investigates the contribute architects could provide to the design of peacekeeping compounds, and the role those structures, usually “sealed” from the territories around for security reasons, could play to establish connections with and to improve the life conditions of local communities.

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The section dedicated to the Camp Castor United Nations compound in Gao, Mali. Photos © Inexhibit, 2016


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Giardini della Biennale
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Built in 1807, the Giardini della Biennale (Biennale’s Gardens) is the main venue of the annual art and architecture exhibitions of the Venice Biennale



Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 – Reporting from the Front – INDEX

Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 – Reporting from the Front – INDEX

Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 – Reporting from the Front – INDEX


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