“In Vivo”: The Belgian Pavilion Investigates Relationship of Architects with Resources at the 2023 Venice Biennale

“In Vivo”: The Belgian Pavilion Investigates Relationship of Architects with Resources at the 2023 Venice Biennale

The Belgian Pavilion has announced its display for this year’s international architecture exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Curated by Bento and Venciane Despret, “In Vivo” concentrates on investigating the architect’s new relationship with resources. The display challenges our extractivist production system by identifying and designing architectural alternatives using components obtained from live organisms and the imagery that goes along with them.

In Vivo: The Belgian Pavilion Investigates Relationship of Architects with Resources at the 2023 Venice Biennale  - More Images+ 3

The installation conducts large-scale experimentation with organic, living materials like uncultivated soil and mycelium (the vegetative portion of fungi). At the same time, the pavilion’s catalog considers our state of affairs in light of this unexplored environment. The presentation will also hold one or more special occasions so that the curators can diversify their viewpoints through hands-on learning experiences (workshops) and/or interactions (debates).

Courtesy of Bento

The curators have transformed the Belgian Pavilion into a location where alternative resources from the construction field can be sensitively explored, and some can experience the development process. In the central room, the visitor experiences natural and living materials, exploring mycelium (the vegetative element of fungi) in a wooden structure that measures 12 x 6 x 6 m and sits on a floor made of freshly excavated soil. As a result, visitors will have the chance to explore these materials’ sensory, tactile, auditory, and poetic qualities. The mycelium, wood, and dirt all come from Brussels to provide an incredibly local and sustainable supply. Moreover, the structure has been designed to be specifically dismantled, and its elements will be given a second life in Venice by the local company Re-Biennale.


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The installation is similar to a “laboratory of the future”, which the curator Lesley Lokko has called for in this 18th edition of the Biennale, with the neighboring rooms devoted to the process of experimenting and manufacturing Bento’s creation. It serves as a symbolic door that is wide open to another approach to building that uses regional materials and is supportive of the creation and expansion of new pathways for living materials in Belgium and elsewhere.

Courtesy of Sonian Wood Coop

How can we rethink architecture in a world of finite resources? We propose experimenting with enviable alternatives for our territories, our cities, alternatives that would be forged with and from the living beings who inhabit them and are their constituent fabric. These experiments would in essence only extend, expand, and even honour the multiple (and often neglected) arrangements by and between humans and non-humans, the living and non-living […] The “In vivo” pavilion will provide a time and a place for critical thinking, particularly because questions of responsibility, of taking into account other beings and of justice will be discussed in relation to living and structures.

Bento and Vinciane Despret

Courtesy of Sonian Wood Coop

Under Lesley Lokko’s overarching theme, The Laboratory of the Future, many other countries have announced their pavilions. The pavilion of San Marino is exhibiting the “Housing Guest Project,” exploring the future of hospitality through workshops and research projects. The Romanian Pavilion investigates unusual past technological innovations as a source of inspiration for creating a more enjoyable and resilient urban environment. Finally, the Georgian Pavilion titled “January, February, March” examines the relationship between the flow of time and energy.

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