Therme Art Program

Manijeh Verghese & Madeleine Kessler

Manijeh Verghese, Madeleine Kessler. Image by Cristiano Corte

The 17th International Architecture Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia 2021, marked the third year of partnership between Therme Art and the British Council. The British Council unveiled its commission for the British Pavilion, titled The Garden of Privatised Delights, running from 22 May to 21 November 2021.

Manijeh Verghese is Head of Public Programmes at the Architectural Association (AA), where she is also a Unit Master of Diploma 12 and a seminar leader for the AA Professional Practice for Fifth Year course. She is a founding Director at Unscene Architecture and co-curator of the British Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale. Over the past eight years, she has led postgraduate and undergraduate design studios at both the AA and Oxford Brookes University and has taught workshops and courses across universities in the UK and abroad. Previously, she has worked for architecture practices including John Pawson and Foster + Partners and has contributed to design publications such as Disegno and Icon, as well as think-tanks, books and peer reviewed journals.

​​Madeleine Kessel is an architect and urbanist dedicated to designing joyful people-centred places that contribute positively to our planet. She is co-curator of the British Pavilion at the 17th International Venice Architecture Biennale, with the exhibition The Garden of Privatised Delights. Madeleine brings over a decade of practice experience, having previously worked on cultural, civic and master planning projects at Haworth Tompkins, Studio Weave, and HHF Architekten, and as an Associate at Haptic Architects, on projects including Battersea Arts Centre, Kings Cross W3, St James’s Market Pavilion, and Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Madeleine has won a number of awards, including the Architects’ Journal’s 40 under 40  and the RIBA Rising Star Award.



Drawing inspiration from Netherlandish artist Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, the exhibition, curated by Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler, calls for new perspectives on privately-owned public space in cities across the UK. It challenges the separation between private and public organisations, while posing solutions on how they might work together to improve the use of, access to and ownership of public spaces. In the spirit of  Bosch’s triptych, the exhibition explores the UK’s privatised public space as a non-binary issue. As Bosch explored Earth as the middle ground between the extremes of Heaven and Hell, the curators similarly suggest that privatised public space sits between two extremes: the utopia of common land before the Enclosures Act of the 18th century and the subsequent dystopia of privatisation.

The rooms of the British Pavilion are transformed into seven privatised public spaces reimagined as inclusive, immersive experiences. Familiar public spaces in the UK, such as the youth centre, the high street and the local pub, sit alongside the traditionally inaccessible private garden square. All spaces are overlaid with proposals for how they can be reprogrammed and revitalised. The proposal of two new ministries invite a bottom-up approach to conversations around ownership of land and facial recognition data, while a private toilet in the pavilion’s basement highlights issues surrounding access to the most basic of public services.

Within The Garden of Privatised Delights, Verghese and Kessler seek to ensure a range of voices, from young people to politicians, are heard. At once playful and provocative, familiar yet strange, each experience suggests new models for privatised public spaces, prompting visitors to question, debate, and proactively engage with each. Unlike traditional exhibitions, with architecture represented by models and drawings, the installations within the British Pavilion are designed as simulated spaces. This aims to actively encourage everyone, architects and non-architects alike, to engage with and consider how public space design can be improved to benefit the wider community.

Read more on this collaboration:

17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

WBCF | Experiments in New Spatial Contracts


In partnership with:

British Council, La Biennale di Venezia