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Sverre Fehn

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AD Classics: Nordic Pavilion in Venice / Sverre Fehn

This article was originally published on March 30, 2016. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Three were originally invited to draw up plans for a ‘Nordic’ pavilion: the Finnish partnership Reima and Raili Pietilä, Sverre Fehn from Norway, and the Swede, Klas Anshelm. Following the selection of Fehn’s proposal in 1959, Gotthard Johansson wrote in the Svenska Dagbladet of the project’s “stunning simplicity [...], without too many architectural overtones”[1] – a proposal for a space able to unite a triumvirate of nations under one (exceptional) roof.

The Nordic Pavilion (Giardini, Venice). Image © Åke E:son Lindman The Nordic Pavilion (Giardini, Venice). Image © Åke E:son Lindman The Nordic Pavilion (Giardini, Venice). Image © Åke E:son Lindman The Nordic Pavilion (Giardini, Venice). Image © Åke E:son Lindman + 30

AD Classics: Nordic Pavilion at Expo '70 / Sverre Fehn

Though architectural history is replete with bricks, stones, and steel, there is no rule that states that architecture must be ‘solid’. Sverre Fehn, one of the most prominent architects of postwar Norway, regularly made use of heavy materials like concrete and stone masonry in his projects [1]. In this way, his proposal for the Nordic Pavilion at the Osaka World Expo in 1970 could be seen as an atypical exploration of a more delicate structure. Representing a very different aspect of ‘Modernity’ than his usual work, Fehn’s “breathing balloon” pavilion stands not only in contradiction to Fehn’s design canon, but to that of traditional architecture as a whole.

Courtesy of Norwegian National Museum Courtesy of Norwegian National Museum Courtesy of Norwegian National Museum Courtesy of Norwegian National Museum + 10