Philip Tidwell, Kristo Vesikansa and Laura Berger at the Aalto University campus. photo: Anne Kinnunen

Pavilion of Finland’s exhibition concept for the 2020 Biennale Architettura in Venice selected – Authors are three scholars at Aalto University

Finland’s first open call for submissions to represent the country in the International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia produced a number of intriguing exhibition concepts and topics. The selected project was conceived by the Finnish–American trio Laura Berger, Philip Tidwell and Kristo Vesikansa. The exhibition concept will be announced in December 2019 and presented at the Pavilion of Finland in Venice from 23 May – 19 November 2020.

Archinfo Finland has announced the curators of Finland’s forthcoming exhibition at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia. Laura Berger, Philip Tidwell and Kristo Vesikansa, are connected by their work and research in Aalto University’s Department of Architecture.

  • Laura Berger received degrees in anthropology and archaeology from the University of Cambridge and the University College London before defending her doctoral dissertation on Alvar Aalto’s Viipuri Library at Aalto University in 2018. She is currently working as a post-doc researcher at Aalto.
  • Philip Tidwell, an American architect and exhibition designer specialised in timber construction, has held numerous visiting professorships in the United States and for the past ten years has been teaching on the Wood Programme in Aalto University.
  • Kristo Vesikansa, a scholar and writer with a focus on modern and contemporary architecture, received his degree in architecture from Helsinki University of Technology, the predecessor of Aalto University in 2007 and has since then been teaching there. Currently he is a lecturer in the chair of History of Architecture.

Archinfo Finland announced the open call for proposals on 12 June 2019 and submissions closed on 8 August. In July, the Biennale di Venezia organisation announced the 2020 architecture exhibition theme “How will we live together?” chosen by curator Hashim Sarkis.

A total of 47 proposals were submitted to the open call, with proposed topics that varied from highlighting Finnish building traditions to solving global problems, and the exhibition concepts ranged from architecture presentations based on illustrations and scale models to interactive installations and virtual realities. In the assessment, themes judged to exhibit a strong link to Finnish architecture phenomena while actively taking part in international discourse were appraised as particularly strong.

Six teams were selected to take their proposals forward to stage two. The shortlisted teams had three weeks to develop their concept further, after which they presented their project to the selection panel. In addition to the winners mentioned above, the authors of the shortlisted proposals were:

  • architects Iines Karkulahti, Charlotte Nyholm and Meri Wiikinkoski / team VAPAA
  • curators Kati Laakso and Ville Tikka together with Tabe Shouri Architects (US), Pekka Airaxin and Marko Tandefelt
  • architects Auvo Lindroos and Teemu Seppänen / Futudesign and team
  • curator Heini Lehtinen and the Aino and Alvar Aalto Design Colloquium 2019 team
  • architect Teemu Hirvilammi together with Animali Domestici (TH) and Mattila & Merz

Hanna Harris, Director of Archinfo Finland and commissioner of the exhibition said:

“We were very impressed with the enthusiasm and devotion all the shortlisted teams showed towards the exhibition at the Pavilion of Finland. Each of the proposed concepts – and many of the ones not ending up shortlisted in this connection – could easily be seen to develop into fascinating exhibitions.”

The selection panel was unanimous in selecting team Berger–Tidwell–Vesikansa’s concept for Finland’s participation in La Biennale di Venezia. The theme of the proposal, which draws from history while remaining highly topical, as well as the strong research behind it and the fresh approach convinced the panel that the project has the potential to develop into an exhibition with international significance.

The selection panel was Chaired by Hanna Harris, as commissioner of the exhibition, and consisted of Beatrice Galilee, an independent curator based in New York; Anniina Koivu, a writer, curator and educator based in Milan and Lausanne; Tuomas Siitonen, an architect, graphic designer and exhibition designer based in Helsinki; and Ilkka Suppanen, an architect and designer based in Milan and Helsinki.

The work toward the production of the exhibition has started with the selected team. The exhibition concept will be announced in December 2019.

The 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will open to the public on 23 May 2020 and close 29 November. For more information, please visit the Biennale website.

This is the second year running that Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture has placed Archinfo Finland in charge of the Pavilion of Finland at the Biennale Architettura. Archinfo Finland made its debut on the Finnish Pavilion in 2018, with the exhibition Mind-Building, which presented an architectural history of the Finnish library movement curated by the Finnish academic Anni Vartola.

Information on Finnish participation in the upcoming Biennale Architettura, including the Nordic Pavilion, which is jointly curated by the Museum of Finnish Architecture, Sweden’s National Centre for Architecture and Design ArkDes and The National Museum of Norway, will be compiled on Archinfo Finland’s website.