Oslo Architecture Triennial hopes to clarify place-making processes
Oslo is the fast-growing capital of an oil-rich state, which (thanks to a rare act of government foresight) now boasts a $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund. The city regularly features in pseudo-scientific indexes like the World Happiness Report and less-than-scientific rankings like Monoclefrom the “most livable” list (#23 this year). Among connoisseurs of urban design, it is known as one of the most underrated capitals in Europe. Architecturally, you’d be hard pressed to find a denser concentration of functionalist buildings, prime examples of the genre, all taken for granted, that is, well used.
Less discussed in the pages of Monocle are the things that make cities increasingly unlivable, whether it is housing affordability or systemic barriers to enrichment. Christian Pagh, responsible for the Oslo Architecture Triennial (OAT), has wisely made these questions the basis for the eighth edition of the event, Neighborhood Mission: (Re)forming Communities. “There is a very clear problem in the way we plan, which is heavily privatized and short-sighted,” he said. A. “It’s very strange that in such a wealthy country the planning can be so bad. It may not be obvious to non-planners, but Oslo’s new “public” spaces suck.
Pagh is Danish and has a background in philosophy and business strategy. It’s a little curious, then, that its triennale adopts an almost militant bent, with a mission-forward theme that affects a certain urgency and bottom-up mode of reparation. In interviews for outlets such as this, he is keen to invoke the example of Jane Jacobs to counter the planner’s aloof, unbiased gaze with an accessible sociology of place. At the same time, it highlights how even the most malevolent developers have co-opted signifiers of authenticity, posing as guardians of a neighborhood’s identity while physically displacing it.
After being appointed director of OAT in January 2021, Paugh moved his family to Grünerløkka, a former working-class neighborhood in Oslo’s East End that is reborn as a real estate magnet. The origins of the titular accent, he said, lay in knowing his new home during a sweltering time. “COVID has made our relationship to the place stranger, freer, but also more dependent on the scale of the neighborhood. There was a strange alienation that made us much more aware of our surroundings. This experience turned the neighborhood into a question mark.
Typically, biennials and triennials are stacks of question marks (or, worse, “interrobangs”), where the intensity of intellectual turmoil is matched only by a fierce evasion towards prescriptive solutions . This makes some sense, given that design festivals thrive on producing cultural, not political, weight. The problems of the world can be endlessly elaborated, but to act on any of these challenges, especially through the use of axonometric diagrams or formal analogies, risks seeming silly.
Mission District, organized by Pagh, takes this risk. Including analytical presentations, urban design proposals and alternative development models, the exhibition takes over the former modernist house of the Munch Museum, where the OAT team will also organize conferences, workshops and other activities. as part of a “neighborhood laboratory” through the end of October. The design projects are extremely specific to the Nordic context, an emphasis that Pagh explains in surprisingly candid terms: “The global South is incredibly important in these matters, but I just don’t know much about it.” Among the handful of non-Nordic projects are a plan to preserve a main street in Zagreb and a discourse center set up by a south London council to foster “the creation and governance of a community-driven city”. .
In the same order of ideas, Come to community, a separate exhibit at the National Museum – Architecture, features materials on feminist, queer, and multicultural perspectives on civic planning. The exhibits draw attention to the impacts of architecture and planning on marginalized groups, whose spaces are particularly vulnerable to redevelopment or rezoning projects. (A third exhibition, at ROM for Art and Architecture, was curated with the National Academy of Arts Oslo’s MA program in Art and Public Spaces and largely foregrounds student interpretations of the theme. of Pagh.)
A train of pop-ups, parties and activations will follow in the days following the public opening on Thursday. Pagh has been careful to craft an overarching message that is acceptable – that is, partly intelligible – to Oslo residents as well as technocrats, business executives and other members of the general public. business travelers. Where previous editions of OAT were geared towards concept-laden discourse, limiting its input to architects, Mission District simplifies and, in doing so, hopes to clarify place-making processes. “We try to articulate that the social and spatial component of place should have a voice,” he said. “He normally doesn’t get votes, except from architects. We want to move this discussion to the conference rooms.
This attitude should raise some eyebrows among the OAT’s most critical visitors. To which Pagh replies: I understand. “You can call it corny, you can call it naive. But it’s also true that we can change the world.
The Oslo Architecture Triennale opens on September 22 and will run until October 30, 2022.