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Finnish–American Trio to Curate the Pavilion of Finland for the 2020 Venice Biennale

Finnish–American Trio to Curate the Pavilion of Finland for the 2020 Venice Biennale

Archinfo Finland has announced the theme and curatorial team for the Pavilion of Finland at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the 2020 Venice Biennale. Entitled New Standards, the exhibition conceived by Laura Berger, Philip Tidwell, and Kristo Vesikansa will explore Finland’s timber industry.

Workmen carry a frame panel for a Puutalo house in northern Colombia where some 1,500 houses were constructed from 1955 to 1957 as dwellings for workers. These Puutalo homes can still be found throughout the Simón Bolívar neighborhood of Barranquilla today. Photo from 1956.. Image © ELKA Stacks of pre-cut material stand ready and waiting for assembly in northern Colombia in 1956. Some 1,500 houses were constructed in the town of Barranquilla from 1955 to 1957 as dwellings for workers. These Puutalo homes can still be found throughout the Simón Bolívar neighborhood today.. Image © ELKA A Puutalo house in Australia sits among a group of tall palm trees in the early 1950s.. Image © ELKA A draughtsman finishes work on a sheet of drawings in the early 1950s at the Helsinki office of the Puutalo company.. Image © ELKA + 11

Commissioner of the Pavilion of Finland and director of Archinfo Finland Hanna Harris (left) with the New Standards curatorial team Kristo Vesikansa, Laura Berger and Philip Tidwell. Photo Juuso Westerlund. Image Courtesy of Archinfo Finland
Commissioner of the Pavilion of Finland and director of Archinfo Finland Hanna Harris (left) with the New Standards curatorial team Kristo Vesikansa, Laura Berger and Philip Tidwell. Photo Juuso Westerlund. Image Courtesy of Archinfo Finland

The selected American-Finnish trio of academics lives and works in Helsinki. The team, interlinked by their works at the Aalto University, includes Laura Berger a post-doctoral researcher, Philip Tidwell, and Kristo Vesikansa, both architects and lecturers. Their work for the Venice Biennale will highlight the history of Puutalo consortium, which designed and manufactured timber buildings in Finland from the 1940s to the 1980s. In fact, “New Standards presents the story of how Finland’s timber industry and architects came together to solve a refugee crisis, and in the process created a new model for factory-built housing that was exported around the world in the decades following the second world war”.

A perspective view of the Joukola type house from 1941 depicts post-war life amidst nature.. Image © ELKA
A perspective view of the Joukola type house from 1941 depicts post-war life amidst nature.. Image © ELKA
A brochure from 1940 promotes the Puutalo company in its founding year. The text advertises model homes that can be “erected from parts in a matter of days” and the cover depicts a modified version of the Rauhakoto (Peace Home) type house which has been configured for two families with separate saunas and washrooms.. Image © ELKA
A brochure from 1940 promotes the Puutalo company in its founding year. The text advertises model homes that can be “erected from parts in a matter of days” and the cover depicts a modified version of the Rauhakoto (Peace Home) type house which has been configured for two families with separate saunas and washrooms.. Image © ELKA

Factory-built timber housing is an area of huge interest for architects looking to solve the question of how we can build quickly and economically, without sacrificing quality or causing further damage to the environment. While timber construction is a well-known feature of Finnish architecture, few people know the story of Puutalo, the pioneering consortium that produced over 300,000 factory-built homes and set new standards for design and quality of life in Finland, then around the world in the middle decades of the twentieth century. -- Hanna Harris, Director of Archinfo Finland, and the Commissioner of the Pavilion of Finland

A selection of facades makes evident the similarities and differences of the standard houses built by the Puutalo company. The photos were taken in 2019 in three Finnish towns, Mikkeli, Tammisaari and the Pitäjänmäki district of Helsinki.. Image © Laura Berger Kristo Vesikansa Philip Tidwell
A selection of facades makes evident the similarities and differences of the standard houses built by the Puutalo company. The photos were taken in 2019 in three Finnish towns, Mikkeli, Tammisaari and the Pitäjänmäki district of Helsinki.. Image © Laura Berger Kristo Vesikansa Philip Tidwell

The Pavilion of Finland, initially designed by Alvar Aalto, was erected in the Venice Giardini in 1956. Nowadays, it is a protected cultural heritage site. Presented by Archinfo Finland, from the 23rd of May till the 29th of November 2020, the exhibition New Standards will explore the way factory-built timber housing was an elemental factor in the modernization of the building industry in Finland. Read on for the full description from the curatorial team.

Workmen erect a Puutalo house on a site in Finland using pre-fabricated panels. These elements arrived from the factory with their exterior cladding already installed. Photo from 1940.. Image © ELKA
Workmen erect a Puutalo house on a site in Finland using pre-fabricated panels. These elements arrived from the factory with their exterior cladding already installed. Photo from 1940.. Image © ELKA

A crisis can be a catalyst for innovations and bring different actors together to build a better world. During WWII, when Finland needed to resettle 420,000 Karelian evacuees, the Finnish wood industry and prominent architects came together to create a system of standardized wood element houses. The exhibition reveals the previously untold story of the Puutalo Corporation and how their prefabricated timber houses became the largest ever export of Finnish architecture, with 300,000 houses in more than 80 countries all over the world. The homes with ingenious spatial distribution, practical domestic innovations, and simple structural principles were designed to raise the living standards and built to last, and many of them are still lived in today. Case studies show how these modest houses have adapted to the local cultures and changing needs of many generations of residents.

News via ArchInfo Finland.

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Cite: Christele Harrouk. "Finnish–American Trio to Curate the Pavilion of Finland for the 2020 Venice Biennale " 12 Dec 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/930134/finnish-nil-american-trio-to-curate-the-pavilion-of-finland-for-the-2020-venice-biennale/> ISSN 0719-8884

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