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The 2023 edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale will be entitled “The Laboratory of the Future,” Biennale president Roberto Cicutto and curator Lesley Lokko announced yesterday at a press conference. The exhibitions at the Giardini, Arsenale, and other Venice venues will open on May 20, 2023, and run through November 26.

The Venice Biennale exhibitions will for the first time center on Africa, with an emphasis on the twin imperatives of decolonization and decarbonization. “In Europe we speak of minorities and diversity, but the truth is that the West’s minorities are the global majority,” Lokko said. “There is one place on this planet where all these questions of equity, race, hope, and fear converge and coalesce: Africa.”

The “Laboratory of the Future” title refers both to Africa—which stands on the forefront of global urbanization and growth but also faces severe threats from climate change and inequities—and to the Biennale itself. “We envisage our exhibition as a kind of workshop,” she said, “a laboratory where architects and practitioners across an expanded field of creative disciplines draw out examples from their contemporary practices that chart a path for the audience to weave through, imagining for themselves what the future can hold.”

Lokko is the founder and director of the African Futures Institute, a postgraduate architecture school and center for research and public programs in Accra, Ghana. Trained as an architect, she also founded and serves as editor-in-chief of FOLIO, a journal of contemporary African architecture, and is a prolific novelist. 

Much of Lokko’s work has examined issues of culture, space, and race, placing architecture in a social and political context that often goes unacknowledged within the profession. “I know that I sound like a broken record, but these questions of decolonization and decarbonization are really a gift to the architectural canon,” she said. “And that’s how I would like this exhibition to be seen—as a gift.”

Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana. Photo by Jackson Davis