Tuesday, 30 December 2014
Curator Nina Berre, Director of Architecture at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, explored the role of émigré architects sent from Scandinavia to modernize independent sub-Saharan Africa in research disseminated for the first time in the Nordic Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Biennale Venice.
The liberation of Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia in the 1960s coincided with the founding of state development aid in the Nordic countries, where there was widespread belief that the social democratic model could be exported, translated and used for nation building, modernization and welfare in Africa. The leaders of the new African states wanted partners without a murky colonial past, and established solid bonds with the Nordic countries, built on a mutual belief in progress. During a few intense years in the 60s and 70s, Nordic architects contributed to the rapid process of modernization in this part of Africa.
These young architects found themselves in the field between building freedom and finding freedom, one a valuable nation-building through city planning, infrastructure and industry the other emerged between Nordic aid and African nation building. Reminded of Jonathan Hill’s thesis on Sverre Fehn in which Hill argues, ‘Accommodating trees and rain, transforming Venetian light into Nordic light, the Nordic Pavilion expands the dialogue between architecture and nature’. There is a sense the Modern Scandinavians exported a sense of freedom and optimism in exporting Nordic light visible in many projects such as the Kenya Fisheries Department by architect Karl Henrik Nostvik.