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Sheffield steals Venice

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December 15 2005

A team led by Jeremy Till has been chosen to represent the UK at the Venice Biennale in 2006. Till who is Director of Architecture at the School of Architecture at Sheffield University is perhaps best known as the husband and partner of architect Sarah Wigglesworth.

Till’s proposal will see a group of Sheffield-based non-architects such as, graphic designers, actors, musician and artists come together with Till and Wigglesworth to show how “a city is more than just its architecture.” Till said he was surprised that he was “the only one of the six short-listed architects who wasn’t based in London”.

Although the brief, created by the British Council, invited “curators to submit proposals for an exhibition in the British Pavilion to explore issues facing the British regions and propose solutions for the future of cities outside London”, the short-list was dominated by London based practices. These included CJ Lim, Newbetter, Rowan Moore of the Architecture Foundation and Lucy Musgrave, co-founder of the General Public Agency, all of whom are based in London.

Another shortlisted team joint-led by Peter Murray, director of the London Biennale also included List editor Nick Barley, who is based in Edinburgh.
“Although it has Sheffield at the centre, I don’t see it as a promo for the city simply because I am based there. It seemed like a good hook to hang a lot of ideas on,” said Till. The shortlist had initially disappointed those who have campaigned for a non-metropolitan focus to Britain’s contribution to Venice. This includes Alan Dunlop of gm+ad.

After visiting the Biennale last year Dunlop contacted the British Council to suggest to them that for the next Biennale, the council like the Spanish pavilion in 2004, should look beyond London and London architects. “Emily Campbell [head of design and architecture at the British Council] contacted me to say she thought it an interesting idea and could I set down more and send it to her.” said Dunlop.

Their proposal contained projects by architects from the regions. Dunlop was told by the British Council to come up with a curator and a theme. In May, having approached Hugh Pearman, he put together a proposal and sent if off. “In August we heard in a press release that the British Council were going ahead with a non-London exhibition focusing on the regions but would have a competition to get ideas. Two weeks ago we heard we hadn’t made the shortlist.”

However, Dunlop said the choice of Jeremy Till from the shortlist was positive. “I am looking forward to seeing what Till and his team comes up with,” he said.
Despite the regional remit of the exhibition, Scotland will now have no representation at the Biennale in 2006. In 2004, the Lighthouse was invited to produce a separate contribution for the Arsenale by curator Kurt Forster which led to the exhibition Landforms. For 2006 however, Scotland will have to be satisified with Jeremy Till’s single exhibition in the British Pavilion which will use Sheffield as a representation of the regions in a wider sense.

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