In a first for the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), a cohort of its students designed the main exhibit at the prestigious International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. This year’s Biennale, the 14th, opened June 7 and runs through Nov. 23.

“Elements of Architecture,” the main exhibit, is on view in Giardini’s Central Pavilion at the Venice exhibition. To put it together, 24 students worked over the past two years under the direction of main exhibit curator Rem Koolhaas, professor in practice of architecture and urban design at the GSD. They enrolled in GSD’s Studio Abroad program and set up at Koolhaas’ OMA/AMO Rotterdam office to do research, design, and production work.

“Elements of Architecture” expounds on the concept of architectural fundamentals like floors, walls, ceilings, roofs, and stairs that are used by architects anywhere and anytime. In addition to producing the exhibition, the students worked on a 12-volume catalog.

“We are trying to look in a new way at the most elementary components of architecture,” explained Koolhaas. “We will encounter similarities and differences, but more than anything else, we will see how these seemingly stable elements are constantly evolving in time.”

On Friday, “Elements of Architecture” was reprised in Cambridge as Koolhaas expounded on the exhibit during a lecture that kicked off GSD’s “The Grounded Visionaries” weekend (Sept. 12-14). Koolhaas was later joined in discussion by several of the students who participated in the studio and helped build the exhibit in Venice.

The opening event at Sanders Theatre included remarks by Harvard President Drew Faust and GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi.

Studio Abroad with Rem Koolhaas at the 2014 Venice Biennale, Part II

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For the past two years, 24 students enrolled in Harvard Graduate of School of Design’s Studio Abroad program have been based in Rem Koolhaas’s OMA /AMO Rotterdam Office carrying out research, design, and production work for the exhibition “Elements of Architecture” featured at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of the Biennale in Venice, Italy. For more information about the Studio Abroad Program, visit