In 1969, the UBC School of Architecture embarked on its very first Study Abroad. Led by Professor Abraham Rogatnick, 59 students travelled to Venice, Italy over the fall and spring semesters, undertaking a wide range of design projects that explored renovations and restorations of the city’s historic buildings. It seems fitting that SALA’s first Study Abroad after the pandemic pause entails a return to Venice, although this time, it’s under notably different circumstances. 

Last April, the Canada Council for the Arts announced that Architects Against Housing Alienation (AAHA)’s Not for Sale!, proposed by SALA’s Matthew Soules, Sara Stevens, and Tijana Vujosevic, in collaboration with Adrian Blackwell and David Fortin from the University of Waterloo and architect Patrick Stewart, will represent Canada at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Not for Sale! is an activist campaign that will occupy the Canada Pavilion when the Biennale kicks off in May. The campaign includes a series of demands developed by collaborators spanning the country, each including elements of advocacy, architecture, and activism.

While the Biennale opens to the public in May, the school is engaged with the campaign on multiple fronts. In their roles as organizers, Soules, Stevens, and Vujosevic have been working with several teams of students from across our programs to bring the different facets of Not for Sale! to life.

MArch student David Kalman works on the study model of the Canada Pavilion

One of those teams, led by Soules and Blackwell, is working on the design of the physical installation. Constructed in 1957 for the Venice Biennale of Art, the Canada Pavilion in the Giardini di Castello has been the site of the country’s showcase at the architecture edition of the exhibition since 1980. AAHA’s occupation of the Pavilion serves multiple purposes: as a functioning headquarters for a national campaign a space that invites visitors to learn about the history of housing alienation and engage with the campaign’s demands, a studio for student activists to work, and a locus for conversation and engagement with Biennale attendees. The BBPR-designed space’s distinctive spiral shape is one of the challenges being tackled with the help of a large-scale study model, pictured here. The team continues to produce drawings, digital models, and renderings in advance of the construction phase, which will begin in April.

In May, 15 BDes, MArch, MLA, and Dual Degree students will travel to Venice in advance of the exhibition’s inauguration and the public opening of the Biennale on May 20. The students will be on-site for a 3-month study abroad, constituting the first half of the Biennale. Their coursework  will centre around critical engagement with the campaign’s demands. During their residency, they will amplify and expand the collaborator teams’ work, producing campaign materials and hosting events for both in-person and online audiences. Once the SALA study abroad has finished, students from the University of Waterloo School of Architecture will occupy the space until the Biennale’s conclusion in November. 

Of course, any contemporary activism campaign worth its salt has a presence on social media. Later this month, Not for Sale! will be launching on Instagram and TikTok. Keep an eye on on both platforms. Under the guidance of Vujosevic, SALA students have been heavily involved developing both the strategy and the content for the campaign. Also forthcoming is the launch of the AAHA website in early March, and a public event in Vancouver is in the works for the end of March.