19-01-2021

2021 Architecture Biennale, the Nordic Pavilion as experimental cohousing

Helen & Hard,

Biennale di Venezia,

Event, Exhibition, Venice Biennale,

After the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic, participants are now starting to share a few more details. The Nordic Pavilion, curated by the National Museum of Norway with architects Helen & Hard will respond to this year’s theme of “How will we live together?” with the exhibition “What We Share. A model for cohousing”.



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2021 Architecture Biennale, the Nordic Pavilion as experimental cohousing Our long-time followers know that the Nordic Pavilion in the Giardini della Biennale in Venice, a veritable marvel of Scandinavian architecture by the acclaimed architect Sverre Fehn, always stands out for its exciting programme. The pavilion is co-owned by Sweden, Finland and Norway. In 2021, the National Museum of Norway will be in charge of realizing the exhibition, on behalf of commissioners Stina Högkvist at the National Museum, Arja-Liisa Kaasinen at the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Kieran Long at ArkDes, Sweden’s National Centre for Architecture and Design.
At the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, the Nordic Pavilion will respond to the Lebanese curator’s theme, Hakim Sarkis, “How will we live together?” with the exhibition “What We Share. A model for cohousing”. In this exhibition, Norwegian architects Helen & Hard supported by a curatorial team from the National Museum of Norway will present a framework for designing and building communities based on participation and sharing.
Selected by the Nordic Pavilion commissioners thanks to their innovative work, Helen & Hard have developed the exhibition in collaboration with residents of the practice’s award-winning cohousing project Vindmøllebakken in Stavanger, Norway. The residents have relatively small but fully equipped apartments, various shared facilities and spaces, and a vibrant local democracy. What might appear to be highly futuristic in countries like Italy, where the idea of cohousing is only very slowly gaining ground, becomes even more radical for the Nordic Pavilion exhibition, where Helen & Hard encourage the residents to ask themselves what aspects of their private lives they are willing to move out of their apartments and share with other residents, and with the audience in Venice.
Questions that the partners and creative directors of Helen & Hard, Siv Helene Stangeland and Reinhard Kropf ask with good reason. Because they’re both architects and tenants of a cohousing community, which has made them aware of the potential of this kind of housing blueprint to tackles some of the social and environmental challenges we are facing right now. 
The theme is even more pressing and topical in the light of Covid-19. “In the past year, questions about our ways of living, and how they relate to loneliness, social encounters and community, have become even more acute”, says curator Martin Braathen of the National Museum of Norway, whose new premises will open in 2022. 
The transformation of the Nordic Pavilion with “What We Share. A model for cohousing” into an experimental project of this approach could give some answers to the housing industry, where there is an urgent need to explore new models of communal living.

Christiane Bürklein

Exhibition: What We Share. A model for cohousing
at the Nordic Pavilion
17th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
from 22 May to 21 November 2021
Curators: Martin Braathen and Joakim Skajaa (project curators), Gudrun Eidsvike Karianne Ommundsen (curators of education), Cathrine Furuholmen (project manager)
Architects: Helen & Hard
Images: see captions
1) What we share, collage by Helen & Hard
2) Vindmølleebakken by Helen & Hard, photo: Minna Suojoki
3) Still from video work by Anna Ihle
4) Nordic Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale, photo: Gianluca Giordano
5) Nordic Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale, photo: Gianluca Giordano

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