Before opening its seasonal Art Village in the Qatari Desert, the Caravane Foundation brings the first of its eight principal structures, the Majlis, to the re-designed wild-flower garden of the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore at the 2020 Venice Biennale. Inspired by nomadic architecture, the Majlis is made from the most renewable building material on earth – bamboo – and shrouded in textiles handwoven in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Traditionally, a majlis is the place where people come together to deepen their connection with each other. In this case, it will help to reflect on the Biennale theme: How will we live together? In recognition of its cultural significance in the Arabian Peninsula, the majlis is inscribed on UNESCO’s ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’. This intervention explores the careful sourcing of materials, ethical processes of production and the legacy of the Majlis. The Foundation, with its international array of individuals and in dialogue with the Benedictine community, aims to restore a collective awareness of the sacred interconnectivity between Humans, Culture and Nature through craftsmanship, art, innovation, agriculture and education.
Thierry Morel is an art historian and curator who graduated from the universities of Paris and Oxford in law and history of art. He was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Cambridge and for Venice in Peril co-authored The Venice Report: Demography, Tourism, Financing and Change of Use of Buildings. Thierry wrote and produced Private View, a documentary series on leading international art collectors for Time Warner. He curated the award-winning Houghton Revisited exhibition at Houghton Hall as well as Francis Bacon and the Art of the Past at the State Hermitage Museum on the occasion of the Museum’s 250th Anniversary and subsequently at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. His book on pre-Revolution architecture and art collecting in St Petersburg was just published by Rizzoli (New York). Morel is currently Director and Curator-at-Large to the Hermitage Museum Foundation (USA), as well as Trustee of the Sir John Soane’s Museum (London).
Simon Velez has more than 50 years’ experience working with natural materials and is widely regarded for his innovative use of bamboo. To date, he has designed and built over 200 buildings in Germany, France, USA, Brazil, Mexico, China, Jamaica, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and India. He has been awarded The Principal Prince Claus Award (2009) and the Award of Honour in Analysis and Planning by the American Society of Landscape Architects for ‘Crosswaters Ecolodge’ (2006).
Todd Longstaffe-Gowan read Environmental Studies at the University of Manitoba, Landscape Architecture at Harvard University and completed his PhD in Historical Geography at University College, London. Todd has advised on many public and private historic landscapes, including the National Trust and English Heritage, The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, and Kensington Palace Gardens. He recently designed a garden for the Morgan Library, New York City, is working with David Kohn Architects on a new campus for New College, Oxford, and in January 2020 he won an international competition with Eric Parry Architects to redesign the British Ambassador’s residence and grounds in Beijing.
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Specification: The Majlis