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Illustration by Helen & Hard
Illustration by Helen & Hard

Press release -

The Nordic Pavilion will be transformed into an experimental cohousing project for the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.

At the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, the Nordic Pavilion will respond to this year’s theme of How will we live together? by transforming into an experimental cohousing project. With the exhibition What We Share. A model for cohousing, Norwegian architects Helen & Hard supported by a curatorial team from National Museum of Norway will present a framework for designing and building communities based on participation and sharing.

Selected by the Nordic Pavilion commissioners thanks to innovative work in the field of cohousing, Helen & Hard have developed the exhibition in collaboration with residents of the practice’s award-winning cohousing project Vindmøllebakken in Stavanger, Norway. At Vindmøllebakken the residents have relatively small but fully equipped apartments, several shared facilities and spaces, and a vibrant local democracy. At the Nordic Pavilion exhibition in Venice, Helen & Hard encourage the residents to develop a more radical version of communal housing: Which aspects of their private lives are they willing to move out of their apartments and share with other residents, and with the audience?

- Being both architects and inhabitants of a cohousing community has made us aware of the potential that this housing model can offer in terms of tackling some of the societal and environmental challenges we face today. In Venice we want to explore this potential and demonstrate how the interplay between inhabitants and agencies involved can create an adaptable architecture, says partners and creative directors of Helen & Hard Siv Helene Stangeland and Reinhard Kropf.

- There is an urgent need in the housing sector to explore new models of communal living, and Helen & Hard’s way of working is innovative and highly relevant. In the past year, questions about our ways of living, and how they relate to loneliness, social encounters and community, have become even more acute, says curator Martin Braathen of the National Museum of Norway.

A Nordic model

The Nordic cohousing model combines owner-occupancy and individual living units with shared facilities and communal participation. The model was developed in the 1970s and has since spread around the world.

The exhibition What we share builds on the Nordic cohousing model. It is not a utopian vision, but a real proposal for building apartments, communal spaces and semi-private sharing zones in commercial housing projects. The project is based on close dialogue between architects and residents and implements an innovative open-source solid timber construction system.

Visitors to the Pavilion in Venice will be able to walk through and explore a cross-section of a prototype cohousing project that will include communal and private areas designed to feel like real living spaces. Initiating a conversation about the social and political aspects of co-living, the exhibition also presents a video by artist Anna Ihle, who is a resident of Vindmøllebakken.

A comprehensive digital presentation of the project will also be available to view online during the exhibition.

The International Architecture Exhibition

The 17th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice will open to the public on 22 May 2021. The exhibition will end on 21 November 2021. The title of this year’s architecture biennale is How will we live together?, a subject that encompasses ways in which architects can create new communities.

Helen & Hard

Helen & Hard was founded in 1996 in Stavanger by Norwegian architect Siv Helene Stangeland and Austrian architect Reinhard Kropf. The firm currently employs 26 people and is known for its innovative use of wood and experimental housing projects.

Nordic Collaboration

The Nordic Pavilion in Venice is co‑owned by Sweden, Finland, and Norway. In 2021, the National Museum of Norway will be in charge of realizing the exhibition, on behalf of commissioners Stina Högkvist at the National Museum, Arja-Liisa Kaasinen at the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Kieran Long at ArkDes, Sweden's National Centre for Architecture and Design.

The exhibition is supported by the Nordic Culture Fund.

Exhibition Team

Martin Braathen and Joakim Skajaa, Gudrun Eidsvik and Karianne Ommundsen, and Cathrine Furuholmen, all from the National Museum of Norway, are serving as project curators, curators of education, and project manager, respectively.

Related links



The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design opens in 2022. With its new building the National Museum will be the largest art museum in the Nordics. The collection contains 400,000 objects ranging from the antiquity to the present day and includes paintings, sculpture, drawings, textiles, furniture and architectural models.


Simen Joachim Helsvig

Simen Joachim Helsvig

Press contact Communications advisor +47 917 64 327