Scottish architects offer a new reality in Venice Biennale

On a bustling side street in Venice, a vision of Scotland transformed is drawing in crowds at this year's international Architecture Biennale.
A visitor to the Scotland exhibit in Venice uses the augmented reality technologyA visitor to the Scotland exhibit in Venice uses the augmented reality technology
A visitor to the Scotland exhibit in Venice uses the augmented reality technology

Occupying a converted chapel, the installation is the work of Prospect North, an alliance between Glasgow design practice Lateral North, Skye-based architects Dualchas, and Glasgow’s Soluis digital studio.

In a multimedia exhibit that showcases Scottish materials alongside augmented reality technology, the chapel has been filled with a huge wooden model of Scotland, Scandinavia and the Arctic.

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The exhibit presents a vision for the future in which the country is repositioned at the heart of a sustainable North Atlantic economy.

The project’s curators are encouraging visitors to interact with the exhibit, which features customised apps developed by Soluis to highlight innovative approaches to design and development across the Highlands and Islands. People can use tablet computers to overlay different types of data on the huge floormap of Scotland, and experience virtual reality renderings of locations past, present and future.

The exhibit also uses virtual reality headsets in sculpted animal heads representing creatures associated with the north, including a polar bear and a unicorn. Visitors use them to transport themselves to rural Scotland.

The installation has been funded by the Scottish Government in partnership with Architecture and Design Scotland. Curator and designer Andy Behan of Lateral North said the project is intended to provoke debate, rather than as a commercial showcase for Scotland.

He said: “The Scottish Government has started to make noises about the issues we are discussing, but we hope we can push them to be more adventurous in terms of ideas. We definitely have a focus on real world projects.”

Co-curator Jonathan Mennie from Dualchas architects said: “We take a lot of our influences from Nordic architects, both in the way we design buildings but also in an emphasis on the social and community aspects of buildings. Scotland is on a frontier in European terms, but there is a whole world of potential for co-operation.”

Scotland’s Biennale exhibit will end on 26 June, then is set to tour the country.