Thursday 24 May 2018


The British Pavilion is commissioned by the British Council; please make sure to credit the British Council in all editorial features.

The British Council unveils Island at the British Pavilion for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia opens Thursday 24 May. 

The curatorial team, Caruso St John Architects with artist Marcus Taylor, have responded to Freespace, the theme of Biennale Architettura 2018 – set by the curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara – with the construction of a new public gathering space in the Giardini. This marks the first joint art and architecture curatorial team commissioned for the British Pavilion.

Visitors approaching the British Pavilion will find the building covered with scaffolding supporting a wooden platform at roof-level. A staircase running the length of one side of the building leads up to an elevated piazza, a place to meet or to relax amongst the tree-tops of the Giardini, open to the sky with views across the Lagoon. Tea will be served at 4 p.m. each day, with seats and umbrellas offering comfort and shade. The peak of the Pavilion’s roof projects up through the floor at the centre of the space, suggesting both an island and a sunken world beneath. 

Throughout La Biennale di Venezia, the British Pavilion will host a programme of events, performances, installations and debates responding to the theme of Freespace and ideas raised by Island. The programme has been produced in collaboration with partners including Tate Collective, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Design Museum, musician Matthew Hebert, poet Inua Ellams, Studio Wayne Mcgregor and many more. It will address topics ranging from migration and decolonisation to language and borders, from isolation and identity to buildings and landscapes. 

The programme is launched at the opening of the Pavilion with a performance by spoken word artist Kate Tempest. On Friday 25 May, the Pavilion hosts the Royal Institute of British Architects’ EUROPA Super Session, to explore the future of architecture practice across Europe at this pivotal moment in history. This is followed by No Place Like Home, in which experts from a range of backgrounds present their perspectives on climate change and migration. With  the  exception  of  these  performances,  the  building  will  be  empty,  abandoned  and  untouched  after  the  last  exhibition. A detailed schedule of events at the Pavilion will be made available to visitors at the start of each month from June to November. 

In a joint statement, the curatorial team of Adam Caruso, Peter St John and Marcus Taylor said:

In past Biennales, the Pavilion has held curated exhibitions on architectural themes. This year, we have taken a different approach. There will be no exhibits; instead we have realised a structure that can be experienced like a building. There are many ways to interpret the experience of visiting Island and the state of the building suggests many themes; including abandonment, reconstruction, sanctuary, Brexit, isolation, colonialism and climate change.  It is intended as a platform, in this case also literally, for a new and optimistic beginning. It is forward looking whilst acknowledging the past, whether good or bad.”

Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion 2018 said:

This year’s winning proposal, Island, will represent Great Britain at the most influential gathering for contemporary art and architecture anywhere in the world. We are thrilled to present this new structure for the British Pavilion which breaks with convention, creating a place for visitors to meet and engage with the building and each other, in a new way. The accompanying programme of events will highlight the Pavilion’s role as a space for debate, for exchange of ideas and for visionary thinking.

An accompanying publication brings together a collection of works that have informed the project. Published by The Store X The Spaces, the book features contributions from Kate Tempest and artist John Akomfrah, a reprint of Shakespeare’s Tempest and three short stories by Trinidad-born writer Sam Sevlon. The publication also features installation photographs by architectural photographer Hélène Binet and an introductory essay by Penelope Curtis, director of Lisbon's Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. John Morgan Studio has created a graphic identity for the project that takes its cue from the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, the cover of which, with the title set in white on a blue background, was said to resemble a chain of white islands in a blue sea.

The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion in Venice since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators to an international audience. This year, the British Council will also support the participation of UK architects and designers in the central exhibitions at La Biennale di Venezia.

In addition, the British Council’s Venice Fellowships supports a group of over 60 UK-based students, young professionals and researchers to go to Venice to invigilate the Pavilion and undertake independent research. The Fellows have been selected and supported through partnerships with 29 universities and institutions. Each month a new group of Fellows will be at the British Pavilion to assist visitors, answer questions and offer information on the programme of events taking place. During their month in Venice, the Fellows undertake a research project responding to the context of Venice or the ideas of Freespace and Island. The Venice Fellowships offer students and recent graduates an opportunity to gain international experience, develop key skills and networks within the arts and architecture sector.

Notes to Editor

Please find the full press pack, including images here: 


The 16th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia opens to the public on Saturday, 26 May and closes on Sunday, 25 November 2018. The Vernissage is on 24 and 25 May 2018.

Updates Online

Follow updates about the #BritishPavilion at: 

Twitter: @British_Design

Instagram: @British_Design

Facebook: BritishArts

Official La Biennale di Venezia hashtags: #BiennaleArchitettura2018 #FREESPACE

Find out more about the British Pavilion in Venice: 

It’s Nice That Instagram Partnership

Drawing on the themes of Island, design platform It’s Nice That invites designers to create a flag representing the values of their own imagined island, to explore ideas of identity and culture through design. Audiences are encouraged to submit their creations on Instagram during ten days in July. 

Media Contacts

For further information and interviews about the British Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, please contact ING Media:

Laura Colapietro 


DL: +44 (0) 20 7392 1999

M: +44 (0) 7534 970 576

Serra Ataman 


DL: +44 (0) 20 7247 8334 

M: +44 (0) 7720 669 073

Benno Rembeck 


DL: +44 (0) 20 7392 1984 

M: +44 (0) 7860 271 390

Sophie Reid 


T: + 44 (0) 20 7247 8334 

M: +44 (0) 7540 325 139


For more information about the British Council, please contact:

Karolina Szlasa | E: | DL: +44 (0)203 285 3659 | M: +44 (0) 7769 285079 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.

About the Curators

Caruso St John Architects was founded in 1990 by Adam Caruso and Peter St John. The practice has completed major projects throughout Europe and was awarded the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize for the Newport Street Gallery built for Damien Hirst to show-case his collection of contemporary art. 

Marcus Taylor has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas. His work has been collected by several major institutions including the Tate and Foundation Cartier. He has collaborated on several architectural projects as part of his artistic practice, most recently with Caruso St John Architects on the competition for the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial next to the Houses of Parliament.

About the Venice Fellowships

The Venice Fellowships enables students, graduates and researchers to spend a month in Venice during one of the world’s most significant art and architecture exhibition organised by La Biennale di Venezia. This year the British Council is working with 29 partner universities and institutions to send 69 Fellows to Venice. 

About Pavilion Patrons

The Pavilion Patron scheme supports the preservation of the British Pavilion as a historic venue and the ambitions of artists and architects, demonstrating excellence in contemporary arts and architecture on a global stage. With thanks to our Patron’s hospitality partner Hotel Danieli, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Venice. 

About The Store X The Spaces

The Store X is a platform for presenting ideas and culture that engages a global community of icons, innovators, creators and the curious in an ever-evolving dialogue. The Spaces is a design, art and property publication exploring new ways to live and work. It calls on leading artists, architects, critics, curators and photographers to re-examine how we use the spaces around us, presenting their ideas on digital magazine and in limited-edition books. 

The accompanying book for Island can be bought at La Biennale shop and online at The Spaces: 

Scaffolding is provided by Altrad Generation and Altrad DESSA