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Island at the British Pavilion in Venice

Island at the British Pavilion in Venice © John Morgan Studio for British Council

© John Morgan Studio for British Council

6 March 2018
by Kate Le Versha

The British Council will present Island at the British Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which will run from 26 May to 25 November 2018. 

The curatorial team, Caruso St John Architects working in collaboration with artist Marcus Taylor, responds to the 2018 Biennale’s theme of Freespace – set by Biennale curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects – with the construction of a new public space on the roof of the British Pavilion. This elevated piazza will offer visitors to the Giardini a place to meet and a unique vantage point looking out across the Lagoon. At the centre of this new public space, the peak of the Pavilion’s roof protrudes up through the floor, suggesting both an island and a sunken world beneath. Below, the doors of the Pavilion are open to visitors, but the building is empty of exhibits.

Throughout the Biennale, the British Pavilion will host a unique series of events including poetry, performance, film and architectural talks and debates in response to Freespace and ideas raised by Island.

In their statement, the curators Adam Caruso, Peter St John and Marcus Taylor said:

“There will be many ways to interpret the experience of visiting the 2018 British Pavilion. An island can be a place of both refuge and exile. The state of the building, which will be completely covered with scaffolding to support the new platform above, suggests many themes; including abandonment, reconstruction, sanctuary, Brexit, isolation, colonialism and climate change.”

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

Island will offer a thought-provoking experience within the Biennale, continuing the British Pavilion’s role as a platform for debate, for exchanging ideas and for visionary thinking. This is the first time we have a joint commission between art and architecture at the British Pavilion. Rather than presenting an exhibition, we want to offer an unmediated experience through a new piece of architecture, which offers a generous space to reflect and to come together.”

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 John Morgan Studio has been commissioned to create the graphic identity for Island and its accompanying book, published by The Store X The Spaces. This publication, the events programme and the Venice Fellowship, play a crucial role in making the British Pavilion a platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture.

The British Council will also support the participation of UK architects and designers in the central exhibition through the British Council’s Biennales and Festivals fund.

To find out more about the British Pavilion and previous exhibitions at the Venice Art and Architecture Biennales, visit:

Follow updates on the British Pavilion @British_Design on Twitter and Instagram #BritishPavilion