Therme Art Program

Experiments in New Spatial Contracts: The Garden of Privatised Delights

Architect and Curator of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition Hashim Sarkis has argued for a “new spatial contract” founded on a more sustainable relationship with each other and our natural world. Responding to this idea, Therme Art and The British Council will co-host the hybrid panel discussion Experiments for New Spatial Contracts to mark with the opening of the Biennale.

Watch on Dezeen: New Spatial Contracts: The Garden of Privatised Delights | Wellbeing Culture Forum 2021

Presented as part of Therme Art’s ongoing Wellbeing Culture Forum, the discussion will focus on the idea of cohabitation prompted by the biennale’s guiding question – How will we live together? – along with the British Pavilion co-curators’ response in The Garden of Privatised Delights, curated by Unscene Architecture, the experimental architectural practice comprising Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler.

Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, this year’s pavilion examines contemporary public space and its security in the face of increasing privatisation. Public and private interests are intricately linked; both motivations need the other to function. However, in our societies today, we often see misalignments in the execution of this melding of worlds. The needs of the public are often overlooked in favor of increased profit, and private stakeholders are typically not informed enough on the demands of the communities they affect. Thus, the intervention at the British Pavilion takes up this complex relationship as inspiration for developing solutions that re-imagine the function of public and private architecture for the betterment of urban life.

The Garden of Privatised Delights inspired by The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
© Madeleine Kessler & Manijeh Verghese, Unscene Architecture

Despite the familiar qualities of daily life, reality as we know it would not exist without ventures into the unknown. Experimentation plays a vital role in advancements in urban planning and shifts in public perception. Understanding that this experimentation does not only exist between humans, but also between animals, bacteria, plants, fungi alike is essential in re-outlining the terms of such a collaboration to benefit all life forms. As the British Pavilion’s curatorial framework begs us to reconsider the stakes between public and private interests, so too should we pay closer attention to the negotiations taking place on all levels of life.

Panellists at Experiments In New Spatial Contracts: The Garden of Privatised Delights

Gathering experts from architecture, art, science and urban planning, the panel will discuss the role of experimentation and creativity in place making, highlighting the multidisciplinary collaboration needed to establish a more just and sustainable spatial contract. Inspired by its pivotal role over the last year, the conversation will also consider technology’s role in creating connection and expanding access within a more equitable understanding of cohabitation.

Key Questions

1. Why is experimentation necessary in new approaches to public life?

2. What adverse aspects of urban planning have been revealed during pandemic?

3. How can we create a culture of experimentation that doesn’t just include between humans, but that expands to microbial life, plants, and animals?

4. How do public and private interests influence each other? How can this reflexive relationship be optimised?

5. What is one new spatial contract that you would like to see applied to cities in the coming months or years?


Sarah Wilson (Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History, Courtauld Institute of Art)
Madeleine Kessler (Unscene Architecture and Co-curator the British Pavilion)
Manijeh Verghese (Unscene Architecture and Co-curator the British Pavilion; Head of Public Programmes at the Architectural Association)
David Ogunmuyiwa (Partner, Architecture Doing Place and Mayor of London’s Design Advocate)
Jayden Ali (Founding Director, JA Projects)


Sevra Davis (Director of Architecture, Design and Fashion, the British Council)
Monilola Ilupeju (Artist and Curator)

In partnership with


Panellists at Experiments In New Spatial Contracts: The Garden of Privatised Delights

David Ogunmuyiwa, Sarah Wilson

David Ogunmuyiwa

Jayden Ali

Monilola Ilupeju, Sevra Davis

Panellists at Experiments In New Spatial Contracts: The Garden of Privatised Delights

Madeleine Kessler

Madeleine Kessler, Monilola Ilupeju

Photo Credits: Therme Art © Francesco Allegretto