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The Slovenian Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale Explores the Social Infrastructure of Local Cooperative Centres

The Slovenian Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale Explores the Social Infrastructure of Local Cooperative Centres

Slovenia's contribution to the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale explores interior public spaces as vital social infrastructure through the lens of the local cooperative centre typology. Titled "The Common in Community", the exhibition curated by Blaž Babnik Romaniuk, Martina Malešič, Rastko Pečar and Asta Vrečko details the architectural spaces of social interaction built after WWII in rural and suburban Slovenia, which continue to serve their purpose as local community centres to this day.

Cooperative centre in Srednja Dobrava. Image © Jana JocifCooperative centre in Ribno . Image © Jana JocifCooperative centre in Dobrunje. Image © Jana JocifCooperative centre in Vnanje Gorice. Image © Jana Jocif+ 8

Cooperative centre in Kostanjevica na Krki, 1953. Courtesy of Božidar Jakac Art Museum, Kostanjevica na Krki. Image © Lado Smrekar
Cooperative centre in Kostanjevica na Krki, 1953. Courtesy of Božidar Jakac Art Museum, Kostanjevica na Krki. Image © Lado Smrekar

A central space for the community, the cooperative centre is a local multipurpose public building, serving as a venue for various economic, social and cultural activities. The typology of the cooperative centre emerged during the post-war reconstruction and modernisation process and was designed to serve the needs of the new cooperative agriculture model. In 1947, Yugoslavia launched an extensive program that saw the creation of thousands of cooperative centres across its territory within five years. In Slovenia, part of Yugoslavia until 1991, more than 300 cooperative centres were built. The Slovenian exhibition highlights this historical project and its implication, as well as the significance of the cooperative centre typology today.

Today, exploring the subject of cooperative centres offers us the chance to better understand the ways in which indoor public spaces can be set up as social infrastructures that have the potential to foster free interaction and association, communication and empowerment. How important they are for society only becomes that much more obvious when we are deprived of the possibility to participate and associate. -Excerpt from the Slovenian Pavilion description


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The state project was a significant endeavour that mobilised technical staff, architects and artists, as well as local communities, veterans, women and youth organisations. The program's evolution was documented in a dedicated periodical that reported on the developments of the construction sites while also publishing architectural plans and construction instructions. Handbooks were printed to help the construction process, and the entire project was detailed in the state propaganda. The centres functioned as cultural and educational venues and took on various uses over the years since the dismantling of the cooperative agriculture model.

Type Plan for a Cooperative Centre, Periodical "Zadružni dom". Image
Type Plan for a Cooperative Centre, Periodical "Zadružni dom". Image

After seventy years, many cooperative centres are still functional, serving their original purpose of bringing together the local community. In light of the Biennale theme, the cooperative centres bring into discussion the topic of social cohesion, as this architectural framework helped nurture social bonds. Moreover, as the typology is only present in small towns and villages, the Slovenian exhibition also raises questions about the differences between urban centres and the periphery, highlighting the issue of unequal social development.

Cooperative centre in Ribno . Image © Jana Jocif
Cooperative centre in Ribno . Image © Jana Jocif

  • Commissioner: Matevž Čelik Vidmar
  • Assistant to the Commissioner: Nikola Pongrac Curators: Blaž Babnik Romaniuk, Martina Malešič, Rastko Pečar, Asta Vrečko
  • Pavilion Design: Obrat d. o. o.
  • Exhibition Design: Blaž Babnik Romaniuk, Anja Delbello, Nuša Jurkovič, Samo Kralj, Martina Malešič, Rastko Pečar, Aljaž Vesel, Asta Vrečko
  • Graphic Design: Anja Delbello, Aljaž Vesel
  • Architectural Models: Nuša Jurkovič, Samo Kralj Video: Vid Hajnšek
  • Photography: Jana Jocif Collaborator: Urška Cvikl
  • Coordinator in Venice: eiletz | ortigas architects
  • Producer: Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO)
  • With the support of Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia

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Cite: Andreea Cutieru. "The Slovenian Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale Explores the Social Infrastructure of Local Cooperative Centres " 29 Apr 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/960834/the-slovenian-pavilion-at-the-2021-venice-biennale-explores-the-social-infrastructure-of-local-cooperative-centres> ISSN 0719-8884

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