We review the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2022

The Oslo Architecture Triennale 2022 focuses on neighborhood and community

The 8th Oslo Architecture Triennial has opened and invites us to discuss neighborhood, community and creating urban space for all

The Oslo Architecture Triennale 2022 has opened its doors and with it a window on how we build our neighborhoods. Norway’s Festival of Architecture Celebration (now in its eighth edition) talks about shared space, community and the urban corners we call our common home, and touches on one of the most critical issues of our time – the quality of life in the urban environment.

The triennial’s chief curator and director, Danish cultural strategist and academic Christian Pagh, explained the multidimensional element of his chosen theme during the opening: “What is a neighborhood? That’s my definition: it’s a place where people live, a physical place but also a social one. There is a real community aspect. It corresponds to individual and social needs both in its meaning and in its function.’

These layers of life and the different interpretations of what this shared space can be are exactly what Pagh and his team, as well as the participants in the main exhibition of the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2022, sought to explore. The main exhibition, titled “Mission: Neighborhood,” after the overall theme of the festival, is housed in the city’s Old Munch Museum (a 1963 Modernist building by architects Einar Myklebust and Gunnar Fougner that has stood empty since the collections moved to moved to their new home- Munch Museum by Estudio Herreros in the city center). The exhibition is a well-put together, in-depth overview of case studies, viewpoints and calls to action from across Europe – with a clear Nordic focus.

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“We want this to be an international, critical, independent forum and at the same time Oslo is growing, so let’s also look at our own environment and have a regional, more Nordic perspective here. What if we spearheaded a Nordic renaissance of collective urban solutions?’ asks Pagh. “Support diverse urban ecologies? The quality and diversity of the neighborhoods are under threat. We need to talk about it at a systemic level.” The research has collated several examples of urban spaces and ideas in the region, from Malmö’s ‘Noisy Neighbors’, which examines noise levels as a planning tool; on a collaboration between JAJA Architects with Aalborg University Institute of Planning and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts with outdoor furniture specialists Vestre on the role of cars in cities; and a project by BIG looking at harnessing thermal energy to boost hyperlocal growth. Topics such as biodiversity in urban areas, rewilding and backyards are also examined.

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Case studies from further afield include London, with Croydon Placemaking’s work on inspiring citizens’ initiative to create meaningful connections between people and places; and Zagreb, through Croatian art and design collective Oaza’s artisanal local production initiative Project Ilica (a re-launch of independent maker spaces on the city’s longest street). In separate spaces within the Old Munch Museum, a section on Peter Cook’s work zooms in on colourful, imaginative drawings and utopian explorations, offering a sort of free-form idea bank in the British architect’s signature style; and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design provides an element of dynamism through an ongoing discussion of ideas for local cities.

Creating “beautiful, spacious spaces” has slipped down on our priority list, explains Pagh: “But the good news is that there are many people trying to make change and make things better.” The team behind the festival , which began its investigation with Mission: Neighborhood and continued with a variety of events over the month-long duration of the triennial, also hopes to grow. Understanding existing spaces, rethinking social infrastructure and governance, emphasizing the role of nature and alternative solutions will be discussed. Pagh sees his Triennial as a “critical center of thought” that will hopefully have a rich afterlife.

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In addition to the relatively formal exhibition structure of the Triennial’s main exhibition, a variety of other exhibitions, activities and events take place across the city throughout the duration of the festival. Oslo National Museum’s triennial exhibition Coming Into Community, for example, is a captivating riot of color and sound that sheds light on what shared space means for the queer community and offers a valuable perspective on place-making. Curated by Swedish art and architecture collective Mycket – a creative force to watch – the exhibition is an interactive installation that’s hard to resist.

Between this main exhibition and the various screenings, building tours, book projects and meet-the-architect events of the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2022 beyond the central hub of the Old Munch Museum, there is ample opportunity for locals and visitors alike to delve deeper into the festival’s main theme – imagining and celebrating neighborhoods, their origins, their life and their future. §