“Architecture Biennale 2023”, the DAAR collective is awarded the Golden Lion
The DAAR (composed of architects Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal) received the Golden Lion for the best participation in the 18th International Architecture Exhibition entitled "The Laboratory of the Future", curated by Lesley Lokko as part of the Architecture Venice Biennale. The international jury awarded the duo "for their long-standing commitment to deep political engagement with architectural practices and learnings about decolonisation in Palestine and Europe". Fondazione Pistoletto symbolically joins in the celebrations for the prestigious achievement: the collective has fostered a long artistic collaboration with Unidee Residency Programs and Cittadellarte.

Cittadellarte applauds the collective of architects DAAR, formed of Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal: the Italo-Palestinian couple has just been awarded the Golden Lion for the best participation in the 18th International Architecture Exhibition entitled The Laboratory of the Future¹, organised by the Venice Biennale, which runs from Saturday 20 May to Sunday 26 November 2023 (pre-opening 18 and 19 May), curated by architect, architecture professor and writer Lesley Lokko. At Corderie dell’Arsenale – the Biennale’s exhibition venue since 1980 – the jury², presided over by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, awarded the prize to the two artists, both of whom are present at the Arsenale in the Dangerous Liaisons section, focusing “on professionals working on the productive edge between architecture and its myriad ‘others’,” said the curator, “landscape ecology, planning, finance, data, public health, artificial intelligence, heritage, history, conflict and identity, to name but a few – through methodology, materials or matter, charting new territories of professional and conceptual relevance and urgency”. Specifically, the motivation for the prestigious award to DAAR is “their long-standing commitment to deep political engagement with architectural practices and learnings about decolonisation in Palestine and Europe”.

DAAR Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hila
Ente di Decolonizzazione – Borgo Rizza
18th International Architecture Exhibition – Venice Biennale
The Laboratory of the Future
Photo by Andrea Avezzù (Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia).

Cittadellarte congratulates them on the award also in light of its long-standing artistic collaboration with the two members of the collective. The first ‘chapter’ was written in 2008, when Alessandro Petti was one of the participants in the Cittadellarte/Love Difference workshop conducted by Ilari Valbonesi (RAM Radio Arte Mobile) as part of the project ASTIDE – Art for Social Responsible Transformation and Intercultural Dialogue in Europe. After that, in 2009, Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal took part in Place beyond borders³, a visual and textual project by Cittadellarte consisting in a space for testimony, analysis and in-depth study on the theme of artistic practices engaged in places of conflict in the Middle East, held from 3 July 2009 to 7 January 2010; for the occasion, on 6 and 7 July, Cittadellarte also organised a workshop curated by Judith Wielander and Juan Esteban Sandoval with Rene Gabri, Ayreen Anastas and Alessandro Petti himself. Place Beyond Borders, curated by Judith Wielander and Love Difference – Artistic Movement for an InterMediterranean Politics, was also one of the exhibitions proposed at the 12th edition of Arte al Centro, which opened on 3 July 2009.
In June 2010, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, moderated a round table on methods in contemporary art with Michelangelo Pistoletto as part of Albissola Marina’s Albissola-Betlemme project. The Thousand and One Nights, which included among the speakers Salwa Mikdadi (Palestinian-American art historian and curator), Artway of thinking (a research group active in the field of community-based public art) and the authors of the School of Rubber in Al-Khan Al-Ahmar in Jerusalem. Fast forward to 2020, when Sandi Hilal was one of the mentors of the Unidee Residency Programs’ week-long module Embedded Artistic Practices in a Post-Pandemic Future, which saw 46 participants from all over the world engaged in an educational experience developed in physical and virtual form, leading the residents to investigate and propose their own research on the role of social engagement practices at the time of Covid-19 (all the details in a previous article); on the occasion, Sandi curated a tailor-made seminar and, in the wake of the group critiques that mentors were expected to facilitate, worked with the residents in a peer-to-peer modality.

Also important are the multiple collaborations between Cittadellarte and Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal in the context of the project Visible: in 2014, as part of the programme Visible: art as something else at the ERG Gallery – ècole supèrior des arts in Brussels, and again in 2019, with the nomination in the long list of the Visible Award 2019 of the project Al Madhafah-The living room by Sandi Hilal. The most recent occasion was 26 March 2023, when Turin’s town hall hosted an assembly in the form of a temporary parliament curated by Visible in collaboration with the Polo del ‘900, which also featured Paolo Naldini, director of Cittadellarte and co-founder of Visible with Fondazione Zegna: the event, part of Biennale Democrazia, featured three guest speakers (Valentina Avvantagiato, Bianca Elzenbaumer and Salvatore La Rosa) presenting as many projects (Casa delle Agricolture Tullia e Gino, Ente di Decolonisation – Borgo Rizza developed by DAAR, and Robida); the audience was then invited to contribute to a debate about a possible national network that would connect experiences focused on responsible social transformation through art, projecting them towards new political perspectives.
“If the feeling was that the milk of dreams lacked the rennet of commitment to the transformation of society,” said Paolo Naldini, “this edition of the Architecture Biennale has it! The Golden Lion to Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti represents a strong and clear signal that even in the most established and stratified institutions dwells the urgency of transformation, which has encouraged and spurred this award to DAAR. Cittadellarte, and in particular the teams of Accademia Unidee, Unidee Residency Programs and the project Visible celebrate them,” he concluded,“together with the mentors, the practitioners, the discussants, and Alessandro and Sandi’s friends”.

 ¹The Laboratory of the Future is an exhibition divided in six parts. It features 89 participants, more than half of whom are from Africa or the African diaspora. Throughout its six months run, the programme of the exhibition is enriched by a carnival, a cycle of conferences, lectures, round tables, films and performances aimed at exploring the themes of the Architecture Biennale 2023.
The jury of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition 2023 – nominated by the Board of Directors of the Venice Biennale on the proposal of Lesley Lokko – is composed of Italian architect and curator Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli (president); Palestinian architect and curator Nora Akawi; the director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, American Thelma Golden; the director of Cityscape Magazine, Zimbabwean Tau Tavengwa; and Polish architect and lecturer Izabela Wieczorek.
³ “Through a selection and presentation of works by artists and activists, both documenting and recontextualising, Place Beyond Borders poses a series of open questions with the possibility of stimulating new questions and perspectives. A heterotopic place (as described by M. Foucault) imagined and created beyond the real borders of a complex territorial and political conflict and, at the same time, a place of participation and dialogical confrontation, as Chantal Mouffe puts it, an agonistic public sphere. Artists and activists selected for their real capacity for critical and proactive analysis of and in the Middle Eastern context, present video works and/or posters with interviews, statements and images, which investigate the theme of the border, understood not only as a geographical and political boundary, but above all as a mental barrier to dialogue and recognition of the other. In Place Beyond Borders, it is also possible to explore the issues addressed through a selection of books suggested by the artists/activists involved in the project. During the summer months, Place Beyond Borders turns into an active workshop within the educational programme of UNIDEE, an international artistic residency. Through the analysis of the artistic projects developed, perspectives of actions are investigated with the resident artists in order to raise a debate on the role of the artist as an activator of processes of transformation of reality”.

Cover photo credits: Fondazione Menna.