The Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods project to feature in the Australian Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale

The Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods Project, an adaptive reuse of the main assembly building within the retired Mitsubishi Motors manufacturing site in Adelaide, Australia, will be one of 15 projects exhibited in the Australian Pavilion in this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.


The theme for the Australian exhibition is “Repair,” which will focus on restoring and establishing proactive measures for the environment through design. Creative directors Mauro Barraco and Louise Wright, both directors of Northcote, Australia-based Barraco+Wright Architects, curated the space along with Linda Tegg, an Australian conceptual artist. The creative approach feeds into the entire event’s theme, “Freespace,” led by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara—both directors at the Irish firm Grafton Architects—which asks participants to consider how architects can provide solutions for people living on a planet struggling with environmental issues.


This issue is particularly resonant for Australian architects because they work in one of the most diverse and ecologically sensitive landscapes in the world. That overbearing presence, combined with the decline of Australia’s car manufacturing industry, lead to the repurposing of the 80,000-square-meter edifice. Celebrating its industrial heritage, the steel support beams for the assembly plant were maintained and treated with new roof components, acting as an “umbrella,” for the two new interior pods housings its tenants—one of which was designed by Adelaide-based Tridente Architects. The result is an open space, mixed-use hub for businesses, manufacturers, education, and research projects supporting and investigating sustainable practices interspersed among landscaped gardens.


Since the urban renewal initiative was completed in 2015, it has garnered several sustainability awards, such as the David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture for the 2016 Australian Institute of Architects Awards and a 2017 Australian Urban Design Award for Large-Scale Projects. It also earned a 6 Star Green Star Communities rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.


“Repair” will be Australia’s seventh exhibition at the Venice Biennale and is one of 63 nations participating in this year’s event.