In yesterday's post we looked at a project and long-standing architectural research revolving around people and affordable housing.
Let's continue the thread by looking at another project currently on at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice (until tomorrow) analysing these themes.
Entitled "Art of Many and The Right to Space", the Danish Pavilion focuses on creating high quality architecture that benefits the community rather than just a selected minority.
Curated by architect Boris Brorman Jensen and philosopher Kristoffer Lindhardt Weiss, the space looks a bit like an art gallery and archive at the same time since it is divided in two parts.
One section features a video installation about Professor Jan Gehl, critic and advocate for respecting human beings in architecture; the other includes a vast cabinet of curiosities containing 130 models of projects.
The models are displayed along a structure made of scaffolds, so visitors have to climb different levels to discover the various projects. The models are made using the most disparate materials, but, while in yesterday's post we looked at an installation that invited people to consider the importance of building materials, in this case the purpose of the buildings (rather than the material) presented is more relevant.
Projects include indeed hospitals, residential units for people with autism, hospices, centres for early childhood development, educational institutions, schools and student halls, prisons, museums, cultural and sports centres, council housing, residential towers, and workplaces.
The projects show that architecture is not about creating fancy showcases and prestigious projects for a minority and mass-produced building stock for the majority, but about designing something that benefits the community, offers people innovative spatial interpretations that respect democracy and society, and improves the quality of their lives.
All these models are therefore associated with humanistic ideas, a theme that the curators include also in their official statement for this pavilion.
The latter affirms that humanism is a central leitmotif in Danish architecture, and that "The ideal of focusing on the human dimension permeates the official architecture policy, dominates contemporary architectural discourse and is highlighted time and again when Danish architects talk about their visions and projects."
The various projects are divided according to the agendas tackled inside the pavilion that mainly looks at five themes: "Beyond Luxury" explores the link between wealth and consumption and the way we are finishing natural resources and invites architects to redefine luxury to ensure quality of life for all (some projects remind visitors that, while Copenhagen ranks among the cities with the highest quality of life, the Danish population has the highest level of personal debt in the world, driven by the gap between housing prices and wages); "Designing Life", looks at the impact of architecture on human beings; "Climbing Space" is about creating environments for public life and putting people first to create an ideal of open society; "Exit Utopia", hints instead at a potential alliance between people, the built environment and nature, and "Pro Community" at a future powered by strong communities.
While the agendas analysed in the pavilion move from the Danish welfare state's vision, the humanist trend in Danish architecture, the local co-operative movement and the housing movement's ambitions to guarantee equal access to affordable housing, the curators also highlight in their research that there are many challenges to face nowadays.
Architects have to deal with other issues such as climate changes, tough living conditions and ghettoization of communities, not to mention scarcity of resources and cutbacks, problems that quite often prove that humanism is a utopia that can exist on paper but that it is difficult to put into practice.
Yet, as a platform of discussion the exhibition works pretty well as it poses questions and suggests some solutions, without looking just at style, but at content and context, and also invites visitors to consider how a new generation of architects is renovating old ideas (see The Mountain in Ørestad by BIG that finds its ancestor in the social housing projects of the late 1960s in Northern Copenhagen - so rediscovering the past to find solutions for the future may be a trend).
"We want this exhibition to show that, day in and day out, Danish architects engage in all sorts of small battles to raise the bar for good architecture and to enhance the quality of life for the people of Denmark in general," Jensen and Weiss conclude in a press release. "They do this by constantly challenging themselves and their environment, not just by solving tasks, but also by elevating them into something special. What makes architects in Denmark remarkable is their insistence on expanding potential and scope in just about every single project."