Bahrain and Junya Ishigami Take Home Venice Architecture Biennales Golden Lions

Bahrain and Junya Ishigami Take Home Venice Architecture Biennales Golden Lions
The 12th Venice Architecture Biennale has been officially open for only one day, but organizers have wasted no time handing out awards to some of its participants. The Kingdom of Bahrain has been awarded the Golden Lion for the best national pavilion, beating out 52 other participating countries, and the Golden Lion for best project in the exhibition went to Japanese architect Junya Ishigami. The Silver Lion, awarded to a promising young architect, was shared by Belgian firm OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen and its collaborator Dutch photographer Bas Princen.

Curated by architects Noura Al-Sayeh and Fuad Al-Ansari, Bahrain’s exhibition focused on plans to develop areas along its shores where water has receded. The show includes three traditional fisherman’s huts from Bahrain. In the citation for the prize, the Venice Biennale jury said that it was "impressed by the choice," which it described as a "lucid and forceful self-analysis of the nation’s relationship with its rapidly changing coastline."

This was the first year that Bahrain had participated in the affairs in Venice. In a statement, the nation’s culture minister, Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, said that the nation had hoped to "portray in an objective way a segment of our urban landscape, sharing with you the challenges, which lay ahead of us in the hope that a shared debate can be raised."

Japanese architect Junya Ishigami, the winner of the Golden Lion for best project, was lauded by the jury for his "unique and uncompromising vision." His exhibition, titled "Architecture as Air: Study for Château la Coste," according to the jury, "pushes the limits of materiality, visibility, tectonics, thinness, and ultimately of architecture itself." The win makes Japan one of the most visible nations at the biennial, since the exhibition is curated this year by Kazuyo Sejima, one half of the award-winning Japanese architecture firm SANAA.

One final award that was made official this past weekend was the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, which was given to Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. That prize had been announced earlier this year.