Home Travel & Outdoor A night in a museum: Norwegian architecture exhibition explores the future of co-habitation

A night in a museum: Norwegian architecture exhibition explores the future of co-habitation


What is it like to live in a museum for a night? A new exhibition at the Bergenkord Museum of Art in Norway invites visitors to experience co-habitation by walking through a large installation and even “staying overnight. The exhibition “Neighbors: How do we live together?” focuses on a large-scale installation that will appear in the Nordic pavilion at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, exploring how the future of cohabitation will make living together more enjoyable and combat issues such as climate change while countering feelings of isolation.

Rarely in Norway has architecture featured so prominently in public debate as it does now. Can this spark of public concern help create new ways of living together? The exhibition “NEIGHBOUR: How Can We Live Together?” at the KODE Art Museum, Bergen. (NEIGHBOUR: How Can We Live Together?) at the KODE Art Museum, Bergen, seeks to explore this point.

The exhibition is an immersive experience – a journey from the public urban environment to each person’s home through the museum’s function as a “cultural space”. Visitors will be able to see Norwegian architecture firms, architecture students’ visions of future buildings, developments presented in various models, and the large-scale co-housing installation “What We Share”. In addition, the exhibition presents the results of the experimental research project BOPILOT, which brings to the gallery projects in the design phase that explore the possibilities of future living. As a meeting place, the exhibition “Neighbors” seeks to explore how occupants and professionals can better collaborate to create good sustainable architecture. Young and old, occupants and developers, citizens and officials, artists and capitalists – in an ideal world, everyone is a neighbor.

The exhibition “Neighbors: How do we live together?” was born at a time when many architects were beginning to conceive of urbanism in the post-epidemic era. Living together was becoming increasingly attractive to young workers seeking flexibility. On the other hand, this model of co-living responds to a more prosaic reality: loneliness, the increasing number of singles, the scarcity of apartments in large cities where roommates can live together, and increasingly high rents. And the epidemic is exacerbating these phenomena.

The main gallery of the Køde Art Museum presents “What We Share”, a co-housing installation designed by Norwegian architects Helen & Hard, in collaboration with the Norwegian National Museum and originally presented at the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2021. The timber-framed residential space offers various degrees of privacy and communal space, including a large kitchen, communal desk, play area and private bedroom.

The work is similar to the 40-unit all-wood-frame residential project Vindmøllebakken, designed by Helen & Hard in Stavanger in 2018.

Vindmøllebakken is a pilot project for the Gaining by Sharing model, which combines private apartments with a central communal space for residents to cook, do laundry and meet, thereby fostering a sense of community among people of all ages and backgrounds. The shared living units are smaller than the usual apartments, and they are built around a shared space of approximately 500 m² in which everyone has a space to call their own equally. The shared space is the heart of the building, easily accessible to all, with some areas that encourage social activity, and others that provide space for rest and privacy. This co-housing model aspires to counteract the growing isolation and provide a more sustainable lifestyle through shared resources with smaller personal spaces. Advocates of this model claim that we can deal with issues such as climate change while living a rich and happy life.
“We are trying to break down the idea that living together means sacrificing freedom,” says Sindre Nordås Viulsrød, the exhibition’s curator. To underscore this argument, he invited the residents of Vindmøllebakken to live in the installation for a specific period of time during the four-month exhibition period.

“What We Share” offers a different attempt at cohabitation than the hippie communes of the 1960s and 1970s, when members of a commune managed a plot of land and pooled their income together. It is also different from the so-called “recognition dorms” that have sprung up in recent years in major cities like San Francisco, New York and London, where residents rent trendy furnished rooms with shared areas and amenities. In contrast, What We Share is based on the Nordic tradition of co-housing, in which residents own their own private homes but share common areas that meet their needs. In What We Share, they take ownership a step further, with each member having a “stake” in the common space.

“In our known Scandinavian co-housing projects, people may have common space but no ownership,” says Reinhard Kropf of Helen & Hard. “You can get those architectural conveniences by having this wonderful and generous communal space.”

In fact, while the concept of co-living dates back to early collecting societies, modern models of co-living have taken different forms, including Berlin’s baugruppen (cooperative housing movement), which brings people together to co-invest in housing with the government; Silicon Valley’s “hacker homes (hacker homes) in Silicon Valley, where engineers live and work together. Some cohousing projects in medieval Europe were designed to make it easier for women to enter the workforce. Hippies in the Western world used cohousing as a way to escape the nuclear family structure.

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