UAE Pavilion Searches for Environmentally Friendly Alternative to Portland Cement

Wael Al Awar from Lebanon and Kenichi Teramoto from Japan, both principals of Dubai based Waiwai designed, have been appointed as the curators for the National Pavilion of the UAE at the 2020 Venice Biennale. Entitled Wetland, the exhibition presents an experimental solution to the critical environmental impact of the construction industry.

Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. Image © National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia

Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto. Image © National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia

Through scientific experimentation and research, the curators are attempting to create a technological equivalent of Portland cement from the crystalized salt and minerals that form the UAE’s unique Sabkha. They are in fact Exploring “sea salt as a traditional, locally-sourced building material, and its potential uses for developing sustainable habitation in desert environments like the UAE”.

© Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

© Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

The cement industry accounts for 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions, in its production of concrete, which is the world’s second most highly-consumed material – so developing an alternative construction material without this high environmental impact is vital for shaping a sustainable future […] Sabkha are among the UAE’s richest geological features, and their mineral makeup has the potential to create a renewable, natural building material that is equivalent in scale, cost and strength to Portland cement. Through the Wetland exhibition project, we are experimenting with unlocking this potential through a process of scientific research. -- Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto,Principal Architects of waiwai design (formerly known as ibda design).

© Sahil Abdul Latheef courtesy of waiwai

© Sahil Abdul Latheef courtesy of waiwai

The 2020 Venice Biennale, curated by Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis under the theme How Will We Live Together? explores the potential of architecture as an enabler “to engage people and communities across increasing social, economic, political and digital divides”. From the 23rd of May till the 29th of November 2020, the UAE Pavilion will showcase Waiwai design of the exhibition.

Skyline of Dubai, UAE. Image © Flickr user skhakirov under the license CC BY-SA 2.0

Skyline of Dubai, UAE. Image © Flickr user skhakirov under the license CC BY-SA 2.0

Our approach to design interweaves natural light, time, structure, and landscape with architecture. We are continually inspired by natural phenomena and the ways in which architects can adapt organic materials to create sustainable designs […] We are honored to have been selected as the curators for the National Pavilion UAE, and we’d like to thank the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation for this opportunity to expand our research into this important global conversation. Salt is a geologically fascinating substance as well as one of the UAE’s most abundant natural resources, and through our exhibition, we’ll explore its potential as an environmentally-friendly building material. -- Wael Al Awar and Kenichi Teramoto, Principal Architects of Waiwai design.

© Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

© Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

Wael Al Awar who holds a B.Arch from the American University of Beirut, and Kenichi Teramoto who holds an M.Arch from Tokyo University of Science, have similar stories that lead them to leave their home countries and collaborate in Dubai. The firm is a multidisciplinary architecture, landscape, and urban design studio that “addresses the social, environmental, economic and technological aspects of architectural projects”. Their projects include Dubai’s Jameel Arts CentreHai d3 and Jeddah’s Hayy Cultural Hub.

© Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

© Dina Al Khatib courtesy of waiwai

Marking the UAE’s tenth exhibition at the Venice Biennale, the 2020 curators were selected after an open call that attracted both a national and an international audience with 97 proposals, showcasing “diverse ideas and vibrant perspectives on local and global architecture from a variety of voices”. The National Pavilion of the UAE for the Biennale di Venezia is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.

Dubai, UAE. Image © Flickr user Rod Waddington under the license CC BY-SA 2.0

Dubai, UAE. Image © Flickr user Rod Waddington under the license CC BY-SA 2.0

The biannual architecture edition of the Venice Biennale is a platform for architects, curators and global thinkers to collaborate and share ideas. This year marks the UAE’s tenth participation at the Biennale, and fittingly our curators are contributing to the global dialogue around environmental sustainability and climate change from a distinctively local perspective. Their work draws inspiration from one of the UAE’s most abundant and unusual natural resources to create an immersive exhibition about living in balance with our planet. -- Laila Binbrek, Coordinating Director, National Pavilion UAE– la Biennale di Venezia