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Hashim Sarkis named curator of 2020 Venice Biennale Architecture Exhibition

Dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning will curate the global showcase for architectural work.
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Hashim Sarkis
Hashim Sarkis
Photo: Sham Sthankiya

Hashim Sarkis, Dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, has been named curator of the Venice Biennale’s 17th International Architecture Exhibition, to be held in 2020.

The exhibition is a premier global showcase for architectural work, and has been held every two years in Venice since 1980.

“With Hashim Sarkis, La Biennale has provided itself with a Curator who is particularly aware of the topics and criticalities which the various contrasting realities of today's society pose for our living space,” said Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale, in a prepared statement.

“The world is putting new challenges in front of architecture,” Sarkis says. “I look forward to working with participating architects from around the world to imagine together how we are going to rise to these challenges. Thank you President Baratta and the Venice Biennale team for providing architecture this important platform. I am both honored and humbled.”

Sarkis received his BA in architecture and in fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987, and his MA and PhD from Harvard University, in 1989 and 1995, respectively. He was a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design from 1998 until January 2015, when he joined MIT. 

As an architectural practitioner, Sarkis also runs Hashim Sarkis Studios and has designed a wide variety of structures — including government buildings, schools, and residences — on multiple continents. An apartment building Sarkis designed in Tyre, Lebanon, has been named as one of the most significant buildings of the 21st century by “The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture.”

Sarkis has also written widely about modern architecture and urban design. His publications include the book “Circa 1958: Lebanon in the Pictures and Plans of Constantinos Doxiadis,” and the edited volumes “CASE: Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital” and “Josep Lluis Sert: The Architect of Urban Design” (co-edited with Eric Mumford).

The International Architecture Exhibition will run from May through November of 2020.

Press Mentions

New York Times

As the curator of this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, addressed how we can live together and how architecture is responding to longstanding global issues that contributed to Covid-19’s global spread, from climate change and migration to political polarization and inequality, reports Elisabetta Povoledo for The New York Times. “The pandemic will hopefully go away,” said Sarkis. “But unless we address these causes, we will not be able to move forward.”


Hashim Sarkis, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, speaks with DesignBoom about the 2021 Venice Architecture Bienale, which was postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The postponement led to open discussions among the participants about tactical things, thematic things, but also how do we respond collectively to a crisis like this?,” says Sarkis. “But then it also led to starting to share ideas about how it is more effective to ship from this port versus that, and using local support rather than shipping everything.”

Associated Press

AP reporter Colleen Barry explores how this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale examines how architecture can address global issues. “More than ever before, architecture is present in our lives, and in our thinking,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning and curator of this year’s biennale.

Financial Times

Hashim Sarkis, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, discusses how this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale examines our relationship with the planet and one another, reports Edwin Heathcote for the Financial Times. “The theme and the subjects we are exploring are exactly the same as those that led to the pandemic,” Sarkis says. “The questions around globalization, the erosion of the rural and urban edge, our relationship with other species, climate change, the polarisation of politics, exaggerated economic difference, mass migrations . . . ”

New York Times

New York Times reporter Sam Lubell spotlights how Hashim Sarkis, dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, addressed the theme of how we live together through this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. “We now have a different set of eyes for how we see the world because of the pandemic,” says Sarkis. “But the issues are still the same. The pandemic helped bring them into focus and accelerate the kinds of responses we had been reluctant to make.”


Hashim Sarkis, dean of SA+P and curator of this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, speaks with Cajsa Carlson of Dezeen about how the field of architecture is transforming due to climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, and efforts to increase diversity and representation. "Talent and imagination are not restricted to advanced development economically,” says Sarkis. “I hope this message comes across in this biennale.”

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