Bjørnådal Arkitektstudio’s “Il primo cerchio del paradiso” at Biennale di Venezia

Bjørnådal Arkitektstudio,

Ketil Born,

Venice, Italy,

Biennale di Venezia, Installation,


“Il primo cerchio del paradiso”, or "The first circle of paradise”, is Norway’s contribution to the 2021 Architecture Exhibition in Venice, by Bjørnådal Arkitektstudio. The intrinsically sustainable installation is part of the "Time Space Existence” side event at Giardini Della Marinaressa, focusing on Norway’s cultural connections with Venice.

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Bjørnådal Arkitektstudio’s “Il primo cerchio del paradiso” at Biennale di Venezia
Our readers will be familiar with Bjørnådal Arkitektstudio’s artistic approach and great awareness of socio-cultural context and environment. “Il primo cerchio del paradiso”, the work on exhibit at Giardini Della Marinaressa in Venice, is another example. In the wide-ranging context of the theme of the exhibition, "Time Space Existence", architect Hans-Petter Bjørnådal offers his interpretation of the natural simplicity of the links between his native Norway and Italy established a long time ago thanks to the fishing trade. Exploring Norway’s communications with the outside world, "The first circle of paradise" reveals past and present connections, with a strong emphasis on issues of current relevance such as climate change, environment and the merits of going back to a simpler lifestyle.
Bjørnådal’s work artistically combines two traditional Norwegian methods for drying fish in a tribute to the men who sailed between the two countries with a wooden hull reminiscent of early trading ships. Built out of pine wood and steel wire, the 5 m high and 2.9 m long installation incorporates the free hexagon geometry of the Nordic construction tradition to give simple tangible form to nearly 600 years of connections between the two countries.
As Hans-Petter Bjørnådal explains: "The fishing trade has endured for centuries as a foundation of cultural connectivity between Norwegians and Venetians, and it is based on a very simple connection to our natural environment,” he explains. " Every restaurant in Venice has a recipe for dry cod”.
Bjørnådal’s work has always been sustainable, and for the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at Biennale di Venezia, he applies his philosophy to the construction of his project, working in partnership with a company called ReBiennale to procure the materials he required to build 'Il primo cerchio del paradiso'. ReBiennale is a collaborative project including a network of Venetian citizens, students, architects, artists and political activists who trade ideas, methods and know-how to build creative works using recycled materials from previous editions of the Biennale di Venezia, offering tangible evidence of the increased focus on the environment that we have noted in many of the installations at the current Architecture Biennale. 
It is indeed possible to make something beautiful even while limiting our ecological footprint, and this is the only way we can answer the question “How will we live together”, posed by curator Hashim Sarkis. Connections and globalisation are by no means new, as Bjørnådal Arkitektstudio’s installation teaches us, going back to 1432, when a North Sea storm altered the course of a Venetian merchant ship bound for the Netherlands. The Norwegian architect’s poetic and sustainable response reveals new horizons.

Christiane Bürklein

Installation: "Il primo cerchio del paradiso”
Lead Architect: Hans-Petter Bjørnådal
Construction: Giulio Grillo - ReBiennale
Artist: Ina Otzko
Architect: Olga Skrebenska
Designer: Christine Blass
Images: Ketil Born
Venice 2021 Architecture Biennale - ”Time Space Existence”
Palazzo Bembo, Palazzo Mora and Giardini della Marinaressa Venezia, Italia
from 23 May - 21 November 2021