Architecture and design practice, AAU ANASTAS, has made headlines with its 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition.

Exhibited within the Giardini, the exhibition creatively demonstrates the craftmanship of stone into a new form of contemporary architecture. The structure, which features an undulating parametrised stone slab supported by thin, slender columns, is a material exploration that builds on the Palestinian construction tradition to create a new approach to contemporary architecture.

Elias and Yousef Anastas from AAU ANASTAS blend architecture, furniture design, research and cultural initiatives within their Bethlehem-based studio. Through its work, AAU ANASTAS has undertaken an extensive exploration of the possibilities of stone in contemporary architecture, illustrated in projects such as the QAMT Installation, The Flat Vault or While We Wait.

“In the disparate architectural context of Palestine, certain architectural attributes, originally found locally, returned to Palestine as imported elements. The exhibition challenges the common approach of the imperial transmission of knowledge. Instead, it traces architectural elements and techniques beyond borders and historical periods,” explains Yousef Anastas, an architect at AAU ANASTAS.

Material versatility

The project created by AAU ANASTAS, in collaboration with Maurizio Brocato, Ensa Paris Malaquais, is both a reflection on the use of stone in the construction realm and an exploration of its contemporary architectural potential.

The title of the exhibition, All-Purpose, echoes the material’s versatility while also indicating its multi-layered significance for Palestine. Building on the knowledge distilled in Stone Matters, the studio’s research on stone that was translated into a series of site-specific structures in Palestine, AAU ANASTAS reiterates the structural use of stone.

As a commentary on the standardisation of stone elements, the project features an organic stereotomy with uniquely shaped pieces and column capitals, creating a vaulted structure. Using computational design and fabrication techniques, the installation at the Venice Biennale presents a new architectural language of stone.

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