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New Nordic

Architecture & Identity

29.6.2012 - 4.11.2012

Is there a Nordic identity? Does The Nordic Way exist? Can one, despite the tendency of globalization to erase national and cultural differences, still understand identity as something associated with parti­cular places? And if that is the case, how has the Nordic identity developed alongside the development of the rest of the world? These are some of the questions posed by the exhibit. 

‘Nordic Dioramas’ When first entering the exhibit one is greeted by a number of boxes. New Nordic asks the question "What is Nordic for you"?, and the answers are manifested in series of small ‘Nordic diaramas’. 30 notabilities from different areas of cultural life in the 5 Nordic countries each contribute their answers reflected in a box offering suggestions to what Nordic identity is, today. The content may be memories, objects, a film or something else ...

The exhibition has been realized with support from Realdania, sponsor of Louisiana’s architecture exhibitions.

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NEW NORDIC takes on 3 themes: reassessing the site-specific, reinterpreting community and reclaiming public space.

Theme 1: Reassessing the site-specific
The first theme of the exhibition is reinterpretations of the place-specific. The introduction to the theme is a film where the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and his Finnish colleague Juhani Pallasmaa discuss Nordic culture and identity. In the Nordic countries there is great variation in places and landscapes, and architects are showing widespread interest in understanding and interpreting the surroundings in their buildings. The architects share the view of place as a mutable entity in which they can interweave physical, cultural and mental processes to renew place-specific building culture.

A number of films are also elements in the narrative of the place-specific: the video artist Elina Brotherus deals with the concept of place as something understood through action and memory; the film-maker Pi Michael has put together a video about the Nordic atmosphere in architecture; and the film producer Wilfred Hauke from dmfilm, in collaboration with ARTE, has focused on the Nordic landscape.

Five Nordic Houses
To show similarities and differences in the Nordic countries the museum has invited five Nordic architects to build a house each: Studio Granda, Iceland, Johan Celsing, Sweden, Jarmund/Vigsnæs, Norway, Lassila Hirvilammi, Finland and Lundgaard & Tranberg, Denmark. Each house is an expression of the regional identity and experience from which the individual architect comes. The rules for the project have been simple: each drawing office has been asked to relate to what Nordic identity can be, and to their ideas of the place-specific in architecture.

Theme 2: Reinterpreting community

Abroad, the welfare system is what is usually associated with the Nordic countries. How are the welfare ideals manifested in present-day architecture? This section tries to point to some tendencies in public building that reflect the distinctive Nordic sense of community. The Nordic welfare model is viewed here as a processual, mutable entity that helps to form what is perceived as Nordic identity and culture: where is the community going, and what new institutions represent the welfare society of the future?

Today a wealth of new institutions are seeing the light of day; many architects are mixing functions that are normally separate. The hospital is moving towards a more home-like atmosphere, the library is becoming a concert hall, culture house and citizens’ service centre all in one. Many public buildings are conceived as icons of brand new or renovated older neighbourhoods.

Theme 3: Reclaiming public space
The third and last theme in the exhibition focuses on specific articulations of public space, and on how values in the Nordic countries are expressed in the way the city is arranged. Among other things, this theme presents visions of temporary and experimental urban spaces.

For this section too, two important installations have been created. In the first the architectural firm SLA has created an artificial landscape as a setting for a number of narratives about how one can bring land­scape elements into the city to create sustainable environments where nature and landscape are combined in integrated ways.

The second installation, with the title ‘Life Between Buildings’ is about the architect Jan Gehl’s ideas on everyday life in the spaces of the city. His research on how city space is experienced and used has resulted in specific proposals for ‘human solutions’. Compared with a traditional working process where buildings and traffic are at the centre, Gehl turns things on their head and looks – in descending order – at life, space and buildings. 

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Louisiana c/o Venice

Life Between Buildings - Gehl Architects
Collateral Event of la Biennale di Venezia

27.8 – 25.11 2012

Louisiana c/o  is a new way of conceiving of the museum in a global, mobile world. It takes the museum and the presentation traditions for which it stands out into other contexts than those determined by its home locality and it serves to draw attention to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art as an international institution.

Life Between Buildings
At the 13th International Architecture Exhibition Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with Gehl Architects, is presenting a spectacular 270-degree spatial installation which uses a succession of small narratives to elucidate Gehl’s visions of urban space. This offers visitors the opportunity to be present in Gehl’s universe of images, film and sound. The installation takes the form of a large circular screen 12 metres in diameter, on which the viewer experiences the multiplicity of narratives about the city as a meeting place for people, and stories of how Nordic values are translated into the identity of the city and realized through the softening of boundaries, the establishment of green oases, easy opportunities for mobility, user involvement and new ways of creating atmospheric, living, playful places.

Gehl believes the city should invite people to meet in public space, to ‘hang out’ together, to strengthen the feeling that the city is theirs, so that they also feel the urge to be in it and use it. Gehl’s vision is to show the meaning of the spaces we live in, the spaces of the city and the way we use them. He focuses on the interconnections between the man-made environment and the quality of human life

The city at walking pace
For more than forty years Jan Gehl has worked with the spaces of the city, and how one creates life between buildings. In the course of the 1960s he became more and more aware of how architecture affects people, and wrote the book Life Between Buildings, which became an international bestseller translated into 22 languages. The book gives an account of the connections between man as a social being equipped with senses and the scale of the city. One of Gehl’s points is that humans are biologically constructed to walk at a speed of five kilometres an hour, and that this affects people’s experience of what happens around them. Consideration for the basic scale of the human senses in urban planning is crucial to whether people feel comfortable in a city space.

Reclaim Public Space!
Today half the population of the world lives in cities, and the figure will continue to grow as the population itself grows. This leads to cities of dizzying proportions and this is why the human dimension is a must in all new planning. Jan Gehl has a feeling for the potential of close urban space and had developed various strate­gies for enhancing life in the city. Man is a biological and psychological individual, so in Gehl’s view urban planners and architects should recognize people’s different needs and give them the right to influence the environment of which they are a part. Gehl insists on a humanist perspective in the planning and design of new city spaces. A human-oriented approach to the spaces of the city means cities that are more alive, safe, sustainable and healthy.

The Human Scale
In the room beside the exhibition the film The Human Scale is being shown. This documentary questions our assumptions about modernity, exploring what happens when we put people into the centre of equations. Director: Andreas Dalsgaard. Producer: Signe Byrge.

Jan Gehl was born in 1936 in Denmark. Architect MAA, Professor (ret.), Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Founding Partner: Gehl Architects – Urban Quality Consultants. Author of Life between Buildings, Public Spaces - Public Life, New City Spaces, New City Life and Cities for People (2010). Awards include The Sir Patrick Abercrombie Prize and an honorary doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Honorary fellow of MAA, RIBA, AIA, RAIC, RISA and PIA.



"New Nordic is a rich and sensoues mapping out of an interesting subject..."


"Excellent, rich exhibition..."


"Louisiana's exhibit architecture is always fantastic....absolutely sublime in the three rooms focusing on re-claiming of public space."