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Background to the 2014 exhibition

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In 2013 the Council of the New Zealand Institute of Architects decided it would support a New Zealand pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.

There had been a New Zealand presence at the International Architecture Exhibition before: in 1991 the University of Auckland School of Architecture beat 42 other international student teams to win the Exhibition’s Venice Prize, and at the 2012 Biennale Andrew Barrie (University of Auckland) and Simon Twose (Victoria University of Wellington) led a student team which entered an exhibition into one of the Biennale’s collateral events. But 2014 would be New Zealand’s inaugural national entry into the Venice Architecture Biennale. 

New Zealand’s participation in the 2014 Biennale entry owed much to the determined efforts of Tony van Raat, head of the Department of Architecture at Unitec, Auckland. Associate Professor van Raat had tried to enter a New Zealand exhibition into the 2010 and 2012 Venice Architecture Biennales. Both attempts foundered through lack of financial support.

It was clear that if New Zealand were to participate at an official level in the Biennale, then the country’s exhibition would have to be organised by, and staged under, the aegis of the NZIA. 

The NZIA Council confirmed Associate Professor van Raat’s nomination as Commissioner of the New Zealand Pavilion and endorsed the case he made for New Zealand’s participation: an exhibition at the Biennale raises the profile of a nation’s architecture and architects, both in New Zealand and abroad; provides an opportunity for architects to examine their work and measure their performance; exposes architects to new ideas; and allows them to contribute to and benefit from the discussion about the issues that confront architects around the world.

Accordingly, in August 2013 the NZIA asked for expressions of interest for the role of Creative Director of the New Zealand Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Selection was a two-stage process decided by an NZIA-appointed jury; entrants who made a shortlist were given some time to develop their presentations for the jury’s final consideration.