Is the pursuit of economic growth doing untold damage to the environment and each other? Now in its 6th edition, the Oslo Architecture Triennale (OAT 19) explores the architecture of a radically transformed society in which cultural and ecological flourishing matter more than economic growth. This curatorial proposal by Interrobang tests the architecture of alternatives through more than one hundred events, theatre performances, installations, exhibitions, walks, workshops, and lectures. Four new degrowth institutions have been established to temporarily transform their locations for the duration of the festival. As mentioned in our editorial, in the latest biennials and triennials the public as an expression of local voices is becoming more prevalent. This Oslo Architectural Triennale will enable audiences to engage with the future of their cities and challenge the way that architects and city planners communicate with them.
Around the world campaigners, cities, and governments are declaring a state of emergency in response to the accelerating global warming. Meanwhile, systemic inequality continues to entrench deep divides between those who have far too little and those who have far too much. In this unprecedented moment, an urgent question is cast: how should architecture respond to a time of climate emergency and social division?
For the last two centuries, the engine of architectural production and the basis of societies around the world has been the pursuit of economic growth. The desire for infinite growth has forced aside common and ecological goals measuring acts of culture and community as mere bumps in GDP. Yet, the limits of this paradigm have become abundantly clear. As equity, wellbeing, and non-monetary measures of prosperity falter, rising sea temperatures, extreme weather, and other indicators of climate breakdown converge with the conclusion that the days of growth’s predominance are running out.
Architecture is no exception. The promise of a meaningful life’s work harnessing the transformative power of design to mix beauty and social justice is deeply felt. Yet for many, our daily practice looks very different to the work we aspired to. The majority of urban practitioners are not the agents of social change that they might have been, rather cogs in a vast value-producing machine whose hunger for expansion is never abated. Homes have become vehicles of capital speculation, galleries have become billboards for attracting investment, streets have become the infrastructure of consumption, universities export enlightenment for profit.
“Degrowth is not necessarily about building less, it is about building differently, according to social need rather than economic profit. With OAT 19 we will propose alternatives to our current unsustainable status quo and explore how architecture can help shape a new economy.”– Cecile Sachs Olsen, integrant of Interrobang,
Chief Curators of OAT
In our bones, we know that infinite economic growth is impossible. We know that money cannot buy happiness. We know that change is coming. Yet our professions continue to toil at the coalface of economic expansion cultivating consumption in pursuit of a prize that is never enough.
Enough responds to an era of climate emergency and social inequality by proposing alternatives to the unsustainable and unfair paradigm of growth. The festival explores the architecture of Degrowth, an economy of shared plenty in which human and ecological flourishing matter most. It is time to call time on too much for the few and too little for the many.
Institutions of Degrowth
The main venues of OAT 2019 tell a story of a city that is lived in: a 19th-century bank repurposed as a museum; two old power stations, adjusted, extended, and eventually transformed into a design policy think tank and a school of architecture and design; and a car garage now a gallery. These spaces represent a way of being in the city where the life of buildings is an open-ended tale of adjustment and inhabitation. In contrast, the average lifespan of a skyscraper in Manhattan is thirty years. Looking to an architecture of degrowth, we may learn something from the awkward and adventurous characters of our cities.
Inspired by the transformed venues of Oslo, Enough inhabits their robust existing fabric and creates new institutions of degrowth: The Library, The Theatre, The Playground, and The Academy. These institutions promote sharing our resources, imagining alternatives, freedom to play, and democratic education–all issues central to transitioning to a future free from the growth imperative.
The Library celebrates sharing, de-commodification, and democratization of goods and ideas in a welcoming heart of a community.
The Theatre reveals the constructedness of our world that invites participants to question reality and actively explore generating alternatives.
The Playground initiates a deeper game of exploring and listening to the city reclaiming the streets as a site of joyful and thoughtful experimentation.
The Academy offers a platform for discussion and research to battle injustice and extraction.
Place Listening. Oslo Architecture Triennale
DATE 25 September – 24 November 2019 / CHIEF CURATORS Interrobang (Maria Smith, Matthew Dalziel, Phineas Harper, Cecilie Sachs Olsen) / Proposal selected from 71 submissions to an open Call for Curator in 2017 / OAT Director Hanna Dencik Petersson / TEXT OAT Press Materials edited.