April 26, 2021 - Slovenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale - The Common in Community
e-flux Architecture
April 26, 2021
April 26, 2021

Slovenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Courtesy of The Common in Community.

The Common in Community
Seventy Years of Cooperative Centres as Social Infrastructure
May 22–November 21, 2021

Slovenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Arsenale, Artiglierie

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Addressing the question, “How will we live together?” the Pavilion of Slovenia at the 17th Venice International Architecture Biennale presents research of community centres in Slovenia. The exhibition The Common in Community provides some answers by unearthing and presenting the large-scale project of building more than 350 cooperative centres that started 70 years ago and remain relevant to this day. These centres have seen changes in the political and economic system, taken on new uses, and shaped the lives of their local communities. A closer look at their history provides us with an opportunity to better understand indoor public spaces as social infrastructure that fosters interaction, communication, and empowerment. 

The central object of the research is the specific spatial and material base that helps creates conditions for communal living and the formation of different communities over time. The effects of the pandemic have clearly showed that indoor public community spaces are extremely important connective elements whose existence is crucial for the widest community and that in times of crisis—be it economic, health or environmental—they provide additional resilience for the communities involved. 

“Cooperative centres” are multipurpose public buildings most often set in a rural context. In villages, small towns, and suburban areas they serve as venues for various administrative, economic, social, and cultural activities.  These centres have a specific architectural typology, whose purpose is to create an indoor public space that usually serves as a central sociocultural space in the community. They are the remnants of the Yugoslavian project of building cooperative centres during the time of post-war reconstruction and the broader modernisation of society. The project was launched in December 1947, and within five years, with mass mobilisation, volunteer and shock work, the country saw thousands of cooperative centres built across its territory. Now 70 years later, many cooperative centres remain standing and continue to serve their purpose as local community centres—venues that bring people together for leisure and for an array of public enterprises. While some have been privatised and some demolished, most continue to serve their original societal purpose. Some of the latter have been renewed, while others await renovation. 

As a concept, cooperative centres open up broader issues of social cohesion, namely how we as a society can live together in diversity and avoid being closed off from each other and our larger sociocultural surroundings physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Cooperative centres have served as components of important social infrastructure that enable and nurture basic social bonds. They also reveal telling differences between the various regions of Slovenia and life in small towns and villages, between urban centres and the periphery, and raise questions of (un)equal social development. 

The exhibition highlights various dimensions of the project of constructing cooperative centres in the given historical, spatial, and organisational circumstances, both at the time of their emergence and today. Employing distinctive architectural elements, they shape the character and functioning of indoor public space, whose significance is underlined by the very presentation of the project itself.  

The presentation of the Slovenian Pavilion is accompanied by an extensive publication.  

Press kit

Commissioner: Matevž Čelik Vidmar
Curators: Blaž Babnik Romaniuk, Martina Malešič, Rastko Pečar, Asta Vrečko
Assistant to the Commissioner: Nikola Pongrac
Pavilion Design: Obrat, d. o. o.
Graphic Design: Anja Delbello, Aljaž Vesel
Producer: Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO)

With the support of Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.

​Press inquiries
Museum of Arhitecture and Design (MAO)
Maša Špiler, masa.spiler [​at​] mao.si

Slovenian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
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