The Estonian Centre for Architecture responds to the question “How will we live together?", the title of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at Biennale di Venezia, curated by architect Hashim Sarkis, with an exhibition looking at an important aspect of urban development: depopulation of small towns and the possible solutions for giving them a new identity.
From May 22 through November 21, 2021 the Estonian pavilion in Venice’s Arsenale complex will host “Square! Positively shrinking”, curated by Jiří Tintěra, Garri Raagmaa, Kalle Vellevoog, Martin Pedanik and Paulina Pähn.
"City shrinkage" is affecting many towns all over Europe, but is especially common in post-socialist eastern Europe as a result of the changes consequent on the transition of 1989 - 1991. Since the year 2000, 45 of Estonia’s 47 biggest towns have lost a significant percentage of their population: a phenomenon that, as the curators report, has had greater repercussions for local communities than low birth rates and emigration. The exhibition “Square! Positively shrinking” investigates the role of quality urban space in the future development of small towns subject to depopulation, presenting solutions for modelling shrinking cities and giving them a new identity.
“ The causes of population decline are global, but the consequences are local,” declares the exhibition’s curatorial team, continuing: “ One way to combat this phenomenon is to focus on improving the quality of life of the population and strengthening local awareness and identity. Our message is that quality urban space has a key role to play in this and cities and architects can do a lot”.
The emphasis is placed both on the role and responsibilities of the architect as a defender of public spaces and on the city, where there must be a strong focus on regeneration of urban vacancies and brownfield industrial sites. These abandoned and unresolved spaces, along with poor quality residential buildings and green spaces which are neglected or insufficient in relation to the resident population, are the principal reasons for negative impact on citizens, triggering a vicious circle that amplifies decline.
The exhibition shows visitors what action is required in the urban space of shrinking cities, through revitalisation of urban spaces, restoration of historic buildings, demolition of abandoned or decaying constructions and active housing policies. The curators emphasise video screenings in the exhibition, showcasing the results of the “Great Public Spaces” (Hea avalik ruum) project organised as part of the “Estonia 100 Architecture Programme”, an initiative marking the country’s centennial with regeneration of the centres and public spaces of 15 Estonian towns, resulting in the completion of town centre squares in Tõrva, Põlva, Valga and Rapla in 2018, Võru and Kuressaare in 2019, and Elva and Rakvere in 2020.
Images courtesy of Estonian Centre for Architecture
photos by: © Anna Hints, © Siim Solman, © Tõnu Tunnel, © Tiit Veermäe
CREDITS & PARTNERS
Exhibition: “Square! Positively shrinking”
Location: Arsenale — La Biennale di Venezia
Address: Sestiere Castello, Campo della Tana 2169/F
Curators: Jiří Tintěra, Garri Raagmaa, Kalle Vellevoog, Martin Pedanik, Paulina Pähn
Commissioner: Raul Järg (Estonian Centre for Architecture)
Production: Eve Arpo, Maria Kristiin Peterson (Estonian Centre for Architecture)
Exhibitors: Mari Rass, Ott Alver, Alvin Järving, Kaidi Põder (Tõrva main square project), Helen Rebane, Egon Metusala, Kaie Kuldkepp, Liis Uustal, Vilve Enno (Põlva main square project), Gianfranco Franchi, Chiara Tesi, Rea Sepping (Valga main square project); Siiri Vallner, Indrek Peil (Rapla main square project), Villem Tomiste (Võru main square project); Häli-Ann Tooms, Mari-Liis Männik (Kuressaare main square and street project); Ülle Maiste, Diana Taalfeld, Anne Saarniit, Roomet Helbre, Taavi Kuningas (Elva main square and street project); Risto Parve, Kai Süda (Rakvere main street project), Liisa Hirsch, Patrick Tubin McGinley (music, sound); Anna Hints, Joosep Matjus, Ants Tammik, Tushar Prakash, Urmas Reisberg, Kairid Laks (film)
Partners: Estonian Ministry of Culture, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Baltic Culture Fund, Rakvere City Government, The Estonian Association of Architects, Rapla Municipality Government, Võru City Government, Valga Municipality Government, Elva Municipality Government, Põlva Municipality Government, Saaremaa Municipality Government, Tõrva Municipality Government
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