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In Therapy: Nordic Countries Face to Face

Photo: Laurian Ghinițoiu
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Venice, Italy

In Therapy: Nordic Countries Face to Face

In Therapy positions the Nordic Countries Pavilion, an exhibition hall designed by the Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn, as a civic extension of the Giardini of the Biennale.

The central installation of the exhibition—a truncated step-pyramid or ziggurat—reframes the charged narrative of the pavilion by way of radical spatial occupation, as an inhabitable display, and through the temporary insertion of a profile amphitheatre.

Seeking to distance itself from the historic weight of the space by way of tectonic play, the exhibition—presented on paper and through film—offers an impression of the state of contemporary built Nordic architecture across a nine year-long timespan (2008-2016). Fundamental questions are raised as simple provocations: how has Nordic architecture developed over recent years? What ties them together and what unifying direction, if any, might be discerned?

The ‘ziggurat’, designed by Marge Arkitekter (Stockholm) as a contemporary intervention and interpretation of Sverre Fehn’s design, performs as an urban artefact as well as a display: an inhabitable installation, a piece of public furniture, and an invitation to investigate.

The steps of the ‘ziggurat’ carry responses to an open call that invited architecture practices from across the world to submit built projects that have been realised in the Nordic region between 2008 and 2016. Each submission is self-categorised as ‘Foundational’ (architecture that cares for society’s basic needs, presented in red), related to ‘Belonging’ (architecture which enacts public programs and creates public spaces, enabling people to become citizens, in green), or in a state of ‘Recognition’ (architecture positioned to appreciate and reflect upon the values of Nordic society, in blue). Practices were invited to indicate how the project has, or has not, contributed to current conditions in Finland, Norway, or Sweden.

In Therapy acknowledges the ‘ghosts’ of Nordic architecture – those architects, historians, theorists, or educators who have exerted a profound influence on contemporary practice and pedagogy at home and abroad. This exhibition aims to address an acute challenge faced by Nordic architects today (consciously or otherwise): how might a contemporary architectural project exist in a dialogue with its setting when that setting is so charged? How might architecture occupy a legacy while harnessing its benefits today?

In Therapy offers a provocation – a collection of installations which offer a lens on the breadth of contemporary Nordic architecture. It positions Finland, Norway and Sweden—three countries with distinct histories, cultures, and attitudes to design—face to face, interrogating perceptions and preconceptions of Nordic architecture through its built environment.

  • Photo: Laurian Ghinițoiu
Photo: Laurian Ghinițoiu
Photo: Laurian Ghinițoiu
Photo: Laurian Ghinițoiu
Photo: Laurian Ghinițoiu Inauguration by Alice Bah Kuhnke, May 2016.

ArkDes in Venice

ArkDes represents Sweden at the International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which occurs every two years in Venice, Italy. Alongside The Museum of Finnish Architecture (Helsinki) and The National Museum of Norway (Oslo), ArkDes is co-commissioner of the Nordic Countries Pavilion, designed by architect Sverre Fehn. On other occasions, ArkDes participates at the Biennale in other capacities through exhibitions, events, and support for artists and architects.


Commissioners: ArkDes, Stockholm; Arkkitehtuurimuseo, Helsinki; Department of Architecture, Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo

Curators: David Basulto

Assistant Curator: James Taylor-Foster

Project Management: Karin Åberg Waern

Advisors: Juulia Kauste, Nina Berre, Eva Madshus

Exhibition Design: Marge Arkitekter ↗

Construction: Eckerud

Graphic Design: MPVK and Lisa Olausson with Thomas Hirter