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Not for sale!

One of the things that I have wanted to do since I was in architecture school was visit the Venice Biennale. Partially because I would hear people say, ” so and so exhibited at the Biennale this year”, and that made it sound cool. But mostly because it’s the oldest cultural exhibition of its kind in the world — it was inaugurated in 1895 — and because there’s an entire section of it dedicated to architecture. So I’m excited to say that it looks like this month is going to be the month.

The way I am told the Venice Biennale of Architecture works is that there are two main components. There are the national pavilions in the Biennale Gardens, and there is the Arsenale, which is where lots of different nations exhibit under one roof. Canada is one of the 29 countries that has its own pavilion and, if you aren’t familiar with its history, it’s worth watching this short video:

At the time of writing this post, it only had 277 views, so I’m guessing that most of you have not seen it. I felt patriotic when I watched it, because the purpose of these pavilions is that they host each country’s official representation during the Biennale. It’s Canada to the world and that makes me proud. This year, Canada is being represented by Architects Against Housing Alienation (AAHA) with an exhibit called “Not for Sale!

Here’s an excerpt from the project description:

Real estate speculation is a form of extortion. It converts homes into spatio-financial assets, changing the form, function, and aesthetics of housing to better serve the logics of wealth storage and speculation. The process is violent, resulting in an urban environment that is racist, sexist, and classist at a systemic level. This global phenomenon is nowhere more visible than in Canada, a country whose economy is now dominated by real estate.

In other words, it looks like the pavilion is going to be turned into a scathing criticism of what I do for a living: real estate development. How neat! The other neat thing about the Venice Biennale is that One Delisle is going to be featured in an exhibition called, “Reconceptualizing Urban Housing.” Our team has been working on this project with Studio Gang since 2016, and so it’s a great honor to have it recognized on such a global stage.

It also means that the Venice Biennale is going to simultaneously tell me that my work is doing some amount of good for Toronto, and that I’m also contributing to racism, sexism, and classism at a systemic level. I can’t wait.


  1. AM

    Their blurb makes use of a lot of fancy language that seems to be trendy of late, hitting on all the right notes.

    What I’m curious about is how they back up their claims? If all they do is make grand statements without facts to support what they claim, then it’s just an archi-typical gibberish statement that architecture academics love so much.

    The only thing that makes sense is the financialization of real estate. That’s not so much due to some evildoer with nefarious plans, but rather because the current financial system, with its high inflation, over-regulation and fiat monetary systems, makes alternative asset classes more appealing than ever before as a store of value. Cash is trash, the stock market is indecipherable and government bonds are not the safe havens they used to be. A symptom of the world we’re living in, rather than a cause.

    It’s the same reason capital is fleeing to bitcoin, it’s one of the rare safe havens where one’s cash value doesn’t evaporate due to the inflation, if one can stomach the extreme volatility. Just look at MicroStrategy to see what’s happening on a grand scale.

    Housing is a major issue to be sure, but I don’t think they’re targeting the right people, but rather merely picking on a popular target that’s gonna earn them brownie points with the people who share their bubble. Not anyone who cannot afford a house at the moment gives a shit about their woke concerns. They just want an affordable, decent place to live, but it’s all too easy to blame the evil rich developers and speculators for all our woes and pepper their discourse with divisive nonsense.

    Anyone with half a brain would soon understand that 90% of our housing woes are political. Some simple changes in the regulatory environment would go a long way to solve the problem, but no politician (so far) has had the balls to do it, because they pander to their base in order to win the next election.


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