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Credit: Helen och Hard

Credit: Helen och Hard

What We Share: A Model for Cohousing

Renowned Norwegian architecture practice Helen and Hard will explore topics around cohousing at the Nordic Pavillion at 17th Venice Architecture Biennale.

This years architect biennale, the worlds most important international exhibition of architecture set outs to explore the theme: Coliving: How should we live together? Ready to interpret the theme under consignment from the Nordic pavilion is the norwegian architect firm Helen & Hard. Founded in 1996 by Siv Helene Stangeland and austrian architect Reinhard Kopf; their practice is known for their innovative way of utilising wooden materials and for their experimental housing projects. In Venice they are now creating the project ‘What we share: a model for cohousing, based on Vindmøllebakken in Stavanger. Host for the Nordic pavilion this year is the National museum of Norway.

Kieran Long on ‘What We Share’

You’re a part of the body that commissions the Nordic collaboration for the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Could you tell us why you chose Helen & Hard’s project for Vindmollebakken?

Helen & Hard is one of the most significant architectural practices in the Nordic region, and we fully support the national museum in Oslo in their choice to give them the task of shaping the Nordic Pavilion in Venice for 2021. Their pitch to a project that explores the subject of cohousing feels relevant and connected to the overall theme. The architects have a sincere dedication to the topic. It’s far from a theoretical drill to them. 

Helen and Hards project ‘What we share. A model for cohousing explores the ideas around coliving and local democracy, why are these topics important to highlight on the platform that the Venice biennale is?

– It’s evident that market-driven models for housing haven’t created the foundation for social diversity, something that a modern city is in need of. Cohousing is not a new phenomenon in itself, but it contributes to a form where the real estate industry can ignore profit margins, and where new types of investments have space to be explored in common areas. The proposal that Helen and Hard have developed will highlight the architectural and social potential of this type of space. The project will be particularly relevant for Sweden, because even though there is a great deal of interest from the public in participating in municipal ownership projects, it is extremely difficult to get this type of project through in practice.

Why did you choose Helen and Hard and what sets their practice apart from other architects?

– Helen and Hard’s work is characterized by technical experiments and a commitment to a broader social and ecological ethics in architecture. Their work is decidedly realistic, independent of conventional forms. Their best buildings create space for meetings and an exchange that feels democratic, open, and beautiful. It also feels relevant today to choose an architect with experience in the actual production of building large buildings. That process can sometimes be messy, and it also feels relevant to the very moment we are in as a society.