A Roof for Silence, the Lebanese Pavilion of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, a project by Hala Wardé


For the Lebanese Pavilion of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Hala Wardé, founder of the HW Architecture firm, which realized the Louvre Abu Dhabi with Jean Nouvel, presents A Roof for Silence in the Magazzini del Sale (Zattere), until November 21, 2021.

Selected in the first public competition opened by the Lebanese authorities to represent Lebanon, Hala Wardé’s proposal was chosen on October 16, 2019 by a committee of experts appointed by the Ministry of Culture and the Federation of Lebanese Engineers and Architects, presided by Jad Tabet.
Echoing the problematic How will we live together? posed by Hashim Sarkis, general curator of this 17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Hala Wardé addresses the living together through a questioning around the spaces of silence, by making a dialogue between architecture, painting, music, poetry, video and photography.

Organized by Hala Wardé and in collaboration with Etel Adnan and Fouad Elkoury, the Lebanese Pavilion is conceived as a musical score, making disciplines, forms and periods resonate to provoke the sensitive experience of a thought articulated around the notions of emptiness and silence as temporal and spatial conditions of architecture. A “revelatory” installation according to the formula of Paul Virilio, in homage to the famous thinker and urbanist. Developed as a manifesto for a new form of architecture, Hala Wardé’s project is based on the cryptic shapes of a group of sixteen olive trees that are a thousand years old in Lebanon. These legendary trees, whose hollows are home to various species, are the tutelary figure of the Lebanese Pavilion. They are places of recollection or gathering, where peasants have convened for generations to decide on village affairs or to celebrate weddings.

The architectural arrangement of the Lebanese Pavilion is integrated into the space of the Magazzino del Sale following a rigorous geometry and rhythm. It unfolds in four stages:
On an introductory wall, Paul Virilio’s Antiforms, an exploration of space and absent matter, are set against photogrammetric records of thousand-year-old trees and black and white photographic prints of olive trees in Lebanon by Lebanese photographer Fouad Elkoury.
On the ground, a trail of glass. Imprints or fractal traces of various forms: that of the impact of the Beirut blast in August 2020, a form of emptiness that joins that of the Antiforms or the large-scale graphic prints of the trees’ cavities.
As the visitors move through the exhibition, they are led to a triptych projection of 16 olive trees of Lebanon that are a thousand years old. Filmed in the darkness of the night by Alain Fleischer, filmmaker, photographer and visual artist, these olive trees offer a sensory experience of emptiness and light, accompanied by a musical creation by the sound artists Soundwalk Collective.
Walking through these images, visitors are led into the central room: an octagonal floor plan, but with a cylindrical interior space, where the 16 canvases of Etel Adnan’s poem-in-painting Olivéa: Hommage à la déesse de l’olivier are on display. The artist does not show a particular olive tree but rather the feeling inspired by this legendary tree that has accompanied the Mediterranean civilizations. Crowned with a semi-spherical roof bordered by light, this space embodies the possibility of an “essential” place: A Roof for Silence.

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