ABU DHABI, 6th December 2016 (WAM) – ‘Transformations: The Emirati National House’, the exhibition presented by the National Pavilion United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale), has closed after a successful 6-month showing in Venice.

The 2016 edition of the Venice Biennale brought together 63 National Pavilions from around the world and was attended by over 260,000 visitors over 6 months.

The National Pavilion UAE is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and supported by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development.

“In line with our mission to invest in the future of the UAE by investing in its people, the Foundation supports the National Pavilion UAE to develop thoughtfully curated and thoroughly researched exhibitions to present on the prestigious international platform of the Venice Biennale,” says Khulood Al Atiyat, Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage, Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

“’Transformations: The Emirati National House’ marked the UAE’s second participation in the Architecture Exhibition and told the story of an often-overlooked yet unique and interesting element of the UAE’s architectural landscape. We are pleased that the UAE’s exhibition has once again seen such a positive reception at this prominent cultural moment.”

“Through a range of archival materials, photography, architectural diagrams and scale models, as well images by Emirati photographer Reem Falaknaz, ‘Transformations: The Emirati National House’ has formed a comprehensive overview of the lively and continuing history of the sha‘b? house,” says Yasser Elsheshtawy, Associate Professor of Architecture at the UAE University and the exhibition’s curator.

“Through the curation of this exhibition we aimed to shift the focus away from attention-grabbing skyscrapers and international stereotypes of the UAE’s architecture, to highlight a more humble project which has nevertheless become a fundamental aspect of architectural discourse in the Emirates.

The sha‘bi housing project was an interesting architectural experiment which, through the active engagement of the residents, has transformed into a series of thriving neighborhoods defined by unique personal touches which have been added to the houses’ basic design over the years.”

The exhibition explores the transformative aspect of the housing model of Emirati national houses, also known as sha‘bi (folk) houses, introduced across the UAE from the 1970s to offer homes and modern amenities to a fairly transient population. National houses are found in residential neighborhoods of most cities in the UAE; they were initially designed as a standard model, but over the years, resident families made various architectural modifications to the basic structure, reflecting their changing lifestyles.

2017 will mark the UAE’s fifth participation in the International Art Exhibition, which runs from May 13th to November 26th, 2017 (vernissage May 10th to 12th). Hammad Nasar, curator, writer and currently Head of Research and Programmes at Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong, has been appointed to curate the UAE’s exhibition for 2017, which will explore aspects of play in contemporary art practice in the Emirates.