Wetland: Sustainable Architecture Exhibition wins Golden Lion Award

The National Pavilion UAE has been awarded the Golden Lion Award, the Biennale’s top honour, for best National Participation at La Biennale Architettura (Venice Biennale) 2021.

Named Wetland, the pavilion won the award for its focus on the construction possibilities of waste materials.

Wetland examines the potential for creating sustainable building materials from the UAE’s salt flats, or sabkhas, and features an environmentally friendly cement produced with recycled desalinated water.

This material could reduce the impact the construction industry has on the environment. The exhibit is inspired by traditional coral houses, but its ground-breaking cement has the strength and durability to be used in modern architecture in standard brick shape.

"[It] encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production at both the local and global scales, and opens to new construction possibilities between craft and high technology," said the judges. Curated by Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, Wetland was selected by the Biennale jury for being “a bold experiment that encourages us to think about the relationship between waste and production on a local and global scale, and opens us to new construction possibilities between craft and high-technology.” This was stated by Kazuyo Sejima, President of this year’s jury.

The exhibition, which will remain on display till November 21, 2021, also celebrates the UAE’s sabkhas (salt flats), which inspired the research for the development of the renewable building material, through large-scale images of the UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-nominated sabkhas, created by New York-based Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi.

The curators worked with specialist teams at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Amber Lab, the American University of Sharjah’s Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences and the University of Tokyo’s Obuchi Lab and Sato Lab, to develop the chemical formula for the cement.


Wetland is a thoughtful example of how artists and exhibitions can raise awareness of climate change. Islam is a religion that encourages environmental responsibility, and sustainable development is not a new concept to Muslims. Islam has a rich tradition of highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources. At Bayt Al Fann we are committed to highlighting art and exhibitions that raise awareness of climate action.

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