'In Therapy' – the Nordic Contribution to the 2016 Venice Biennale

The Nordic nations—Finland, Norway and Sweden—have reached a pivotal point in their collective, and individual, architectural identities. The Grandfathers of the universal Nordic style—including the likes of Sverre Fehn, Peter Celsing, Gunnar Asplund, Sigurd Lewerentz, Alvar Aalto, and Eero Saarinen—provided a foundation upon which architects and designers since have both thrived on and been confined by. The Nordic Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale—directed by Alejandro Aravena—will be the moment to probe: to discuss, argue, debate and challenge what Nordic architecture really is and, perhaps more importantly, what it could be in years to come.

We're asking for every practice (and individual) across the world who have built work in Finland, Norway and Sweden in the past eight years to submit their project(s) and be part of the largest survey of contemporary Nordic architecture ever compiled.

Update: the Open Call for In Therapy closed on the 24th January 2016.

The Exhibition

In Therapy will use the structure of Abraham Maslow’s 1954 Hierarchy of Needs as an analytical lens and an observational springboard from which to explore and investigate architectural projects that have been instrumental in constructing contemporary Nordic society. Just as Maslow theorised a collection of motivational needs that people require and aspire toward—namely physiological (shelter, warmth, food and sleep), social needs (security, order, and stability), and those related to personal esteem (achievement, prestige, and respect)—the built environment can be similarly classified.

Maslow described the pinnacle of his pyramid of needs as ‘self-actualisation’, or the realisation of one’s full potential – achievable only once all other needs have been reasonably satisfied. Whereas the hierarchical, rigid nature of Maslow’s pyramidical diagram is preoccupied by the notion of the ‘self’ and belies the sheer complexity of the social human condition it can, nevertheless, be used as a useful broad-stroke tool to classify architectural projects.

Although it might superficially appear that Finland, Norway and Sweden are at the pinnacle of the pyramid they each, nonetheless, face difficult tasks. The exhibition will uncover the fascinating disjunction between the typical world view of the Nordic countries as highly developed, socially progressive nations, and seek to reveal the enormous challenges which they face, with architecture—as a social and cultural practice—at its epicentre. From fragmenting social integration, immigration demands and the challenge of an ageing population, to the decline of the oil industry and resultant damage to the natural landscape, beneath the surface there’s still a long way to go and much to be learnt from.

Open Call

In an interpretive take on Maslow’s hierarchy, In Therapy will catalogue projects completed between 2008 and 2016 in Finland, Norway and Sweden as either: foundational (architecture that cares for basic needs such as shelter, healthcare, and education); those related to belonging (architecture which enacts public programs and creates public space in which society gathers; the places where individuals become citizens and relate to one another); or those related to recognition (architecture which recognises the processes in Nordic society and its values).

Within these bands of the built environment, the exhibition will investigate what Nordic architecture is today, uncovering through dialogue the issues related to architecture, urbanism, infrastructural design, and pedagogy. Most importantly, it will explore how they are being overcome by some of the world’s leading contemporary designers. From this analysis In Therapy will postulate if, and how, the Nordic countries are nearing the top of the pyramid – and where to go from here.

The open call closed at midnight on the 24th January 2016.

David Basulto to Curate Nordic Pavilion at 2016 Venice Biennale

In Therapy will be curated by David Basulto, a Chilean architect and co-founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of ArchDaily and its network of sites in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. He has lectured in institutions around the world including the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Sao Paulo's Escola do Cidade, Tsinghua University in Beijing, and the Strelka Institute in Moscow. He has acted as curator and editor for a number of exhibitions and magazines, and as a jury member for multiple competitions and awards. Last year he moderated at the 2015 Alvar Aalto Symposium in Helsinki.

James Taylor-Foster will be assisting Basulto in the curation of the pavilion.

About this author
Cite: AAA. "'In Therapy' – the Nordic Contribution to the 2016 Venice Biennale" 20 Jan 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/780078/in-therapy-nil-the-nordic-contribution-to-the-2016-venice-biennale> ISSN 0719-8884

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