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Tosin Oshinowo announces theme for Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023

United Arab Emirates Architecture News - Jul 07, 2022 - 17:14   1695 views

Tosin Oshinowo announces theme for Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023

The President of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial, Hoor Al Qasimi, and the Curator of the second edition, Tosin Oshinowo have announced the theme for the 2023 Sharjah Architecture Triennial.

The second edition of Sharjah Architecture Triennial will take place in Sharjah situated on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates

The theme, titled The Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability, will explore relationship between scarcity, creativity and design. 

The new edition will "prioritize contextual solutions, resource sharing and waste reuse"

The theme will focus on how issues of scarcity in the Global South have created a culture of re-use, re-appropriation, innovation, collaboration and adaptation. As Tosin Oshinowo emphasized in her curatorial statement, the new edition will "prioritize contextual solutions, resource sharing and waste reuse" rather than relying on the technological aspect of sustainability. 

The Triennial, which is set to open in November 2023, will explore how we can reorient global conversations to create a more sustainable, resilient and equitable future.

"The prevailing idea that architecture’s iconic works must remain constant over time has led to an erosion of the distinctive and adaptive architectural practices of the Global South that respond directly to culture, place and climate," stated a press statement by the Sharjah Architecture Triennial. 

"Whilst historically subordinated in favour of an ethos of permanence in architecture pervasive in the Global North, these methods – shaped by the rhythms of everyday life, climate and material availability – offer design solutions for the many challenges facing our populations," the statement reads.

Tosin Oshinowo announces theme for Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023

Tosin Oshinowo. Image © Spark Creative

"Sharjah is an incredible venue to explore impermanence, adaptability, and scarcity as they relate to the future of architecture"

"Sharjah is an incredible venue to explore impermanence, adaptability, and scarcity as they relate to the future of architecture - both because of the natural extreme climate conditions, and because of the overwhelming presence of impermanence in civic status," said Tosin Oshinowo, curator of the 2023 Sharjah Architecture Triennial. 

"It confronts head-on the challenge of extreme climate within its traditional architecture and the inevitability of human transience that is easily ignored in many other areas of the world."  

"A study of Sharjah provides the foundation to explore approaches to architecture that prioritize an understanding of impermanence, an embrace of the inevitability of scarcity, and a psychology of the collective that is essential for our shared future globally," added Oshinowo.

Lagos-based Nigerian architect Tosin Oshinowo is the principal of cmDesign Atelier, the architecture studio she founded in 2012 in Lagos. 

After the inaugural edition of Sharjah Architecture Triennial in 2019 under the curatorial direction of Adrian Lahoud, Oshinowo will become the second architect to lead the Triennial. 

Tosin Oshinowo announces theme for Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2023

Coral Pavilion on Lagos peninsula, Nigeria by founder of cmD+A Tosin Oshinowo. Image © Tolu Sanusi 

Aiming to bring together a range of voices and perspectives, Oshinowo has put together a curatorial advisory board of international architects, artists and designers to enrich her curatorial vision for 2023. 

The board includes: Hoor Al Qasimi, President of Sharjah Architecture Triennial and President & Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, Beatrice Galilee, Co-Founder and executive director of a new platform for architecture and design discourse, The World Around, Mariam Kamara, Founder of architecture and research firm Atelier Masomi in Niger, Rahul Mehrotra, Founder of architecture firm RMA Architects of Mumbai + Boston and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, British-Nigerian artist and Paulo Tavares, Brazilian architect and urbanist. 

Their expertise and insight will augment Oshinowo’s vision for the Triennial as a platform for discourse on the alternative creative strategies that are urgently required as architecture strives for a better future.

Read Tosin Oshinowo Oshinowo’s full curatorial statement below:


The Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability

The present state of the relationship between architecture and the natural environment reveals our global and local histories; it communicates priorities around sustainability and equity that have long needed to be reconsidered. In the context of where I come from in Nigeria, the scramble for Africa cemented the seeds of colonialism, confirming the processes of resource extraction across the continent. This set the pace of limited development for centuries to come, creating and enforcing part of the division between what we now know as the ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’.

In the ‘Global South’, issues of scarcity have created a culture of re-use, re-appropriation, innovation and collaboration. These practices propose a new model of thinking, one that is born out of scarcity rather than out of abundance. This model celebrates the use of natural materials with the understanding that repair and reconstitution are instinctive, necessary and desirable. It also embraces the idea that nothing can be permanent, and that everything in our environment should adapt to conditions of scarcity to match our realities and needs, thereby resulting in a progressive and evolving architecture.

The answer to how to build a sustainable future in our precarious present has its roots in traditions of architecture and design that have been with us for generations and continue to evolve. Across the ‘Global South’, many practitioners, craftspeople and communities have embraced long-standing traditions that have been systematically ignored by the canon. These approaches prioritize an understanding of impermanence, inventive responsiveness to limitations, and a psychology of the collective that is essential for our shared future.

In this edition of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial, we will explore design solutions built from conditions of scarcity and how these illuminate a pathway forward to reorient our conversation on sustainability. Whereas the current global perspective on sustainability relies on technical innovation, this new perspective prioritizes contextual solutions, resource sharing and waste reuse. We will showcase examples of work that are based on a more foundational notion of regeneration and renewal that underscores an understanding of circularity that has been with us for generations. We will explore techniques that are ingenious, embracing the idea that everything is impermanent and subject to evolution and repair, and that work with nature rather than against it.

Bringing together architects, designers, artists, planners and researchers working in the ‘Global South’ and through its many diasporas, The Beauty of Impermanence is a collective, collaborative effort to explore a future for architecture that embraces the undercelebrated traditions of the region to comprehend a more sustainable, accessible and equitable view of the future.


Sharjah Architecture Triennial (SAT) was founded in 2018 by Khalid Al Qasimi as a platform for architecture and urbanism in a region that extends from West Asia to South Asia and the African continent.

Physically anchored in Sharjah and the United Arab Emirates, SAT aims to engage diverse audiences and stakeholders in a collective conversation on architecture at the neighbourhood, city, and regional levels.

The 2nd edition of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial was originally planned to be held in 2022, the event was postponed to 2023 due to Covid-19.

Top image courtesy Limbo Accra.

> via Sharjah Architecture Triennial 

Sharjah Architecture Triennial sustainability Tosin Oshinowo