Impianto di raccolta dell'acqua piovana: Un’esplorazione della Resilienza dello Spazio Pubblico: La Biennale di Venezia: Biennale Architettura 2021 — Padiglione Italia, Giardino delle Vergini,

Translated title of the contribution: Rainwater Harvesting Installation: An Exploration of the Resilience of Public Space: The Venice Biennale: Architecture Biennale 2021 - Italy Pavilion, Garden of the Virgins

David Turnbull (Designer), Saul Golden (Designer), Marc Didomenico (Developer), Fred Avitaia (Developer)

Research output: Non-textual formInstallation

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This output comprises a commissioned installation by the Italian Pavilion and Italian Ministry of Culture for Dr Golden and Professor David Turnbull to develop a series of artefacts and exhibitions for the Venice Architectural Biennale 2021, from September to November 2021, in collaboration with the Florence Institute of Design International. The primary artefacts will be accompanied by a catalogue publication of international value, invited talks at the Biennale (online or in-person), and a travelling installation roadshow to disseminate the works after the close of the Biennale for public display in Italy, Turkey, the UK, and Africa where the installation will remain for use as outreach and educational artefacts for future network and rainwater harvesting (RWH) project/funding development with partners in Ghana, Botswana, and Malawi. The artefacts themselves are 3-4 large-scale (3m tall) outdoor sculptural representations of rainwater harvesting concepts and process that double as didactic furniture pieces for the Italian Pavilion's historic 15th Century Walled Garden of the Virgins, alongside other installations by world leading architects, sculptors and activists); an accompanying exhibition inside the Italian Pavilion will feature small-scale artefacts, drawings and process work, examples of previous projects and research in Africa by Turnbull and Golden. The commission derives directly from previous RWH buildings completed by Turnbull that featured in Golden's 2016 PhD research, and from Golden and Turnbull's GCRF Pump-Prime collaboration in 2017-18 with the Ulster University CST and NIBEC researchers, and partners from the Ghana Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which focused on rural inequality and environmental challenges that an integrated rwh architecture-public space approach might address more effectively than stand-alone 'bolt-on' systems focused more prominently on technical innovation over social impacts. The artefact are thus part of a longer term body of work related to Golden's trademarked Urban Research Lab projects that collectively apply transdisciplinary and performative tactics (design interventions and engagement methodologies) to shape and co-construct meaning in shared urban spaces; here as a widespread model of rainwater harvesting for fragile communities. The installation, and the commissioned aim is therefore both a provocation and a place of relaxation - juxtaposing the challenges of first and third world responses to materials, leisure, and resources. In a corner of the garden, shown on accompanying layouts, located between the trees, a collection of translucent leaves will form a canopy, connected to pillow-like translucent cisterns from robust, flexible materials filled with water. This assemblage of rainwater catchment surfaces and water storage vessels is an artificial watershed. In Venice, the leaves are clouds. Consistent with themes explored in the Pavilion, the design of the installation is a ‘spandrel’, invoking the careful use of an architectural term by the evolutionary biologists, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin in their controversial paper on ‘The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm’ (1979). It is ‘a fruitful use of available parts’, responding to architectural constraints that in this context are understood as ecological and economic. The pillows are conceived as the locus of dreams, and debate. In practical and impact-driven terms, after the Biennale, the installation will travel, provoking conversations about water security and public health, in Istanbul, Florence and Belfast. It will then be separated into independent pieces, and shipped to Ghana, Botswana and Malawi, where questions raised in Venice will be addressed in rural communities where rainwater harvesting initiatives are being developed through projects and proposals linked to Golden's January 2021 £1.8million UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Proposal, WATERSHED AFRICA. In this way, the installation becomes an actor in networks that extend beyond the walls of the garden . . . into the future. . Venice Team: David Turnbull with Dr Saul M Golden, Fred Avitaia, Lorenzo Bertolotto Marc DiDomenico. Biographies for the Venice Catalogue: David Turnbull is a Professor of Architecture, critic, writer and consultant working on ecosystem restoration projects internationally. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth, UK, a Visiting Expert at ARUP, worldwide, and a member of the Scientific and Cultural advisory group for the ‘Padiglione Italia - Biennale Di Venezia 2021’. Saul Golden is the director of the Urban Research Lab at the Belfast School of Architecture and the Built Environment, Ulster University, in Northern Ireland, applying trans-disciplinary and performative tactics to co-construct meaning in shared urban spaces.
Fred Avitaia is a co-founder of Studio Tricot in Florence. He is currently teaching advanced computer rendering, prototyping and concept design at Florence Institute of Design International, FIDI, in Italy. Marc DiDomenico is the director, and founder of the Florence Institute of Design International, FIDI, in Italy. Lorenzo Bertolotto is a landscape designer and herdsman. He is currently working on climate adaptation and resiliency at De Urbanisten, and head shepherd for the Dakpark, in Rotterdam, NL.
Translated title of the contributionRainwater Harvesting Installation: An Exploration of the Resilience of Public Space: The Venice Biennale: Architecture Biennale 2021 - Italy Pavilion, Garden of the Virgins
Original languageItalian
Place of PublicationVenice, Italy
PublisherD Editore
Editioncomunità resilienti:Italian Pavilion Architecture Biennale 2021
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 8 Jun 2021
EventItalian Pavilion: Resilient Communities: Biennale Architettura 2021: How Will We Live Together? - Tese delle Vergini, Arsenale, Venice, Italy
Duration: 22 May 202111 Nov 2021


  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Venice Architecture Biennale 2021
  • sustainability
  • Resilient Communities
  • Italy
  • sculpture
  • artefacts
  • installation
  • Exhibition
  • Architecture
  • Climate change
  • Global Challenges
  • Partnerships
  • Africa
  • Ghana
  • Malawi
  • Botswana
  • South Africa


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