A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Field Trip

Exploring Belonging

Students exhibit work in response to 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale

by Jason Foumberg (MA 2006)


A cohort of 20 SAIC students was among the international community of architects and designers who flocked to Venice this past spring for its renowned architecture biennale. Not mere tourists, the students lived in the City of Canals for three weeks to install a satellite exhibit in response to the School’s first-ever commission of the US Pavilion and its curatorial theme, Dimensions of Citizenship, which included SAIC Associate Professor Andres L. Hernandez (MA 2004) and world-renowned architect Jeanne Gang (HON 2013). For many of the students, it was the first time they exhibited their artwork outside the School, a prestigious debut.


Called Designer Artist Citizen Site: Exploring Belonging, the studio class taught by Ann Lui, assistant professor in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO) and co-curator of the US Pavilion and Iker Gil, the US Pavilion’s associate curator and AIADO lecturer, met with the students the semester before the trip to prepare the exhibit.

Lui and Gil recall their plan was ambitious: to develop and build an entire exhibit in a single semester. “The stakes were high,” reflects Lui, “but the compressed timeline became a catalyst for really creative thinking by the students.”

They selected the Cultural Flow Zone at the Università Ca’Foscari to house the exhibit, and focused each student on creating a large hanging banner to show their work, including maps, drawings, and slogans, and a new “artifact” of cultural significance. The catch: it had to fit in each person’s suitcase. Projects addressed diverse contexts of belonging, from national and gender identities to citizenship in the art world.

“I’ve been to Venice a few times before the class but always within the tourist infrastructure,” says Andrea Hunt, a second-year master’s candidate in architecture. “This time I spent two weeks there with the students, my closest friends. It was really revelatory. It freed me from my prejudices.”

By day the students attended panel discussions and programming at the US Pavilion, and by night they explored Venice’s ancient nooks and canals. Sometimes they would picnic by the water, talking for hours about art and life until the Italian sun set over the red-tiled rooftops. After their stay, the students left Venice with both cultural and professional souvenirs.