Templo designs identity for British Pavilion inspired by diasporic rituals

For the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale Templo has crafted an identity referencing celestial light and featuring “portals” that invite audiences into the pavilion.

Templo has created the new identity for Dancing Before the Moon, the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2023.

Curated by Jayden Ali, Joseph Henry, Meneesha Kellay and Sumitra Upham, the pavilion, whose name is taken from a James Baldwin quote, explores how everyday rituals can create space for diasporic communities in the built environment. The exhibition features commissions from six UK-based artists and designers – Yussef Agbo-Ola, Madhav Kidao, Mac Collins, Shawanda Corbett, Jayden Al and Sandra Poulseni –  which “reflect on ancestral practices of the artist’s homelands”, the studio says.

According to Templo co-founder and creative director Pali Palavathanan, this was the first time that the British Council tendered for both the visual identity and marketing for the British Pavilion as a single body of work. The Templo team explains that the curatorial theme “resonated with us on a visceral level”. Palavathanan adds: “We were appointed because of our ability to authentically communicate the themes in the pavilion.”

The visual identity can be seen across the pavilion exhibition, film, digital assets, merchandise, and an OOH campaign. Working closely with the curators throughout, Palavathanan explains that early conversations helped identify the main challenges and “gave us the clues for the visual identity”.

A particular challenge was “reaching a new, younger and more diverse audience, while also continuing to speak to the core British Council audience”, Palavathanan adds. Key features for the identity were that “the exhibition would feel like a portal upholding the rituals of diaspora, and the lighting from the film would have glowing edges”, he says.

Distinct shapes drawn from the individual commissions are used both as graphic elements and as framing devices for other content, acting “as portals into the pavilion, the artist and the ritual that inspired each piece of work”, Palavathanan says.

The shapes also are incorporated into the interpretation wayfinding system and a 4-metre aluminium sign at the pavilion entrance.

The diffused edges are a reference to “the visual language of Africa and Sri Lanka”, Palavathanan says. “It’s also a subtle nod to the pavilion itself, where the sound and light from the Main Hall diffuse into the anterooms”, he adds.

He explains that the colour palette references celestial light, “building on the title of the pavilion and the idea of the connection between the earth and the sky” explored by the curators. A crepuscular grey and purple dominate, accompanied by white and ochre shades, and the blue of Sandra Poulsen’s work.

Further celestial links were made through the teaser campaign, featuring monolithic structures around which shadows move in a simulation of “the moon rising and falling”, Palavathanan says.

Three typefaces are used across the identity. “The bold chunky serif” represents the diasporic community; a “delicate serif with lots of curves” represents the establishment; while a third typeface is used for interpretation and delivering information”, Palavathanan adds.

According to Palavathanan, the visual identity was tailored to different applications. In the pavilion  it is “quieter”, in order “to allow the commission to take centre stage”.

Across social media, the campaign and digital assets it is much louder, “to drive home the feeling and content of the pavilion for those who might not be able to go to Venice in person”, Palavathanan says. Connecting both pavilion and marketing is the music created by Oscar #worldpeace.

“This is the first time I can think of where I’ve seen my culture represented in this way in a world-class exhibition”, Palavathanan adds.

Dancing Before The Moon from TEMPLO on Vimeo.

The pavilion can be visited at the Venice Architecture Biennale until 16 November 2023.  Fabrication was by JAMPS, photography is by Taran Wilkhu and filming by John Ingle.

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