Cover Picture © Credits to Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France/ Wikimedia
Cover Picture © Credits to Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France/ Wikimedia

The Nordic Pavilion in Venice, by Sverre Fehn

2 minutes to read

A pavilion often refers to an open space that invites people to come and spend time in it. It could be a temporary or a permanent construction and since it is a flexible concept, it might even be changing its form and function. This type of space might be used as a shelter, a meeting point, a gathering spot, a theater, or for specific purposes, such as lectures, events, exhibitions, sports or work. For example, in the Venice Biennale,  and specifically in its national pavilion, every country is being presented and every country is dealing with certain spacial problematic concepts.

Back in 1959, three different teams from Norway, Sweden, and Finland got voted in to have the honor to design the Nordic pavilion of the Venice Biennale. The Norwegian team won with the proposal designed by Sverre Fehn and the solution suggested was described as a “stunning simplicity, without too many architectural overtones”. This 1997 "Pritzker Prize laureate" was a leader in Post World War II Scandinavian architecture. His biggest achievement, after this pavilion, was the Hedmark Museum in Hamar, Norway.

Photo by ©seier+seier /flickr
Photo by ©seier+seier /flickr

Placed in Giardini della Biennale, the Nordic pavilion is focused on presenting the characteristic Nordic light in "Venetian conditions". This is what fascinates in this object. Fehn decided to release a lot of the space and removed two out of four exterior walls. The ceiling is made of stylish laminated beams, lacquered to a high gloss (as a metaphor of sunlight reflecting on the snow). The roof is open and the repetition of the beams is "broken by openings", that allow trees to get outside the building. This is another Scandinavian concept; being in close relation with nature.

Photo by ©seier+seier /flickr
Photo by ©seier+seier /flickr

Fehn used both original and local material; concrete combined with white cement, white sand and white Italian marble. This is how he created a light of high intensity, calmness, and homogeneity. After he had traveled to Marocco, he could make distinctions and praise the characteristic "Nordic light". To reach this effect in his pavilion, he placed two layers of concrete brise-soleil, very precisely designed, to form a two-meter deep pocket set that would transform the nice warm Venetian light into a homogeneous sense of illumination. This is how he reached a shadeless space and brought a Nordic ambiance under the Mediterranean sky.

According to one definition, "an architect is a sculptor of the light"; in this case, Sverre Fehn got the closest to it.


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The author

Zlata Golaboska

Zlata Golaboska

I am Zlata and I am an architect living in the Balkans. I am passionate about cities, how people influence architecture and vice versa, and how places change our lives.

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