June 5, 2017 - National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo - A Place to Be
e-flux Architecture
June 5, 2017
June 5, 2017

National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

Pfelder, The Isle, 2013. Participatory art project in the Bispevika harbour, Oslo.

A Place to Be
Contemporary Norwegian Architecture 2011–2016
June 9–November 19, 2017

The National Museum – Architecture
Bankplassen 3
0151 Oslo


A floating cabin anchored in in the Oslo harbour, co-living units with a social and sustainable profile, a memorial and learning centre at Utøya, some of the largest urban transformations in Norwegian history, and a centre for prehistoric cave paintings that gently burrows into the landscape in Lascaux, France: A Place to Be. Contemporary Norwegian Architecture 2011–2016 presents a selection of 25 projects dating from the past five years.

The exhibition—the eighth survey of contemporary Norwegian architecture since 1978—aims to identify a body of architectural production that still represents key values of Norwegian architecture such as site-specific sensitivity, readable form, simple use of materials, and awareness of the wider social context. Instead of providing a comprehensive overview of the last five years, covering all building types, it focuses on the fields of practice that have generated the most distinctive results. In addition to which, the exhibition identifies relevant themes from the international discourse that resonate particularly well within the Norwegian environment.

A Place to Be is divided into five thematic sections: Dwelling, Shelter, Transformation, Recreation, and The Heart of the City. Within this structure, the exhibition covers projects planned and realized in all parts of Norway, both by Norwegian and international practices, as well as projects realized across the globe by Norwegian architects.

All residential designs are gathered together under the heading Dwelling, rather than dividing the field according to building typologies like single-family houses, apartment buildings, cabins etc. The title underlines the fundamental or even existential aspect of living in a space, of being at home. It asks inasmuch how architecture helps to create a sense of belonging. Thus the focus shifts from the building to its inhabitants: dwelling as a "fundamental act" (Superstudio).

Distinguished from Dwelling by its essentially protective and at times transient character, the very idea of Shelter has become an important topic in the architectural discourse over the last few years. Under this term, we include design-build projects in the global south, temporary structures in the public (urban) sphere, as well as shelters placed in the great outdoors, in particular in nature reserves for tourist purposes.

Concepts of rehabilitation, adaptive re-use and experimental preservation are internationally prevalent, both in architectural and urban-planning discourses. Although the conceptual thinking behind these buzzwords can seem slightly blurred, the future of architecture in the developed countries lies arguably in the realm of Transformation, which therefore constitutes a lynchpin of the exhibition.

Since the early 1990s, numerous buildings for cultural and educational use have been realized throughout Norway, gradually meeting people’s needs across the country. Like Dwelling, we define Recreation here as a fundamental act, encompassing creativity as well as education and sports. Hence, this section includes cultural buildings completed in the last five years in the widest sense, ranging from artist studios to community houses, museums, educational buildings and sports facilities.

The last section, The Heart of the City, is the only one devoted entirely to Norway’s capital. It focuses on two large-scale urban developments that have substantially changed Oslo’s character and will challenge its urban fabric even more in the future: Fjordbyen (the Fjord City) and the new governmental district. The title of this section quotes the MARS group’s concept for CIAM 8, which took place in 1951 in Hoddesdon, England. For the first time, a substantial Norwegian delegation, headed by Arne Korsmo, participated in the meeting.

This is the museum’s first survey of Norwegian architecture since internet-based dissemination platforms like ArchDaily and dezeen became a major force in the field, making photos and drawings of countless projects easily available, while also increasingly determining our perceptions of architecture. All the projects presented in this survey have already been widely publicised, many in print, but all on the internet. For the exhibition, it was crucial to find a form of presentation that allows a new and fresh view of the respective projects and their individual qualities that takes us beyond previously established conceptions.

Curator: Markus Richter
Project manager: Cathrine Furuholmen
Curator education: Anne Marit Lunde
Exhibition Design and Art Direction: U67 (Fabio Gigone, Angela Gigliotti)
Graphic design: NODE Oslo Berlin

National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo
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