Sverre Fehn, Nordic Pavilion, Venice: Voices from the Archives
Mari Lending, Erik Langdalen
Pax Forlag & Lars Müller, 2021
Sverre Fehn’s Nordic Pavilion in Venice is a masterpiece of postwar architecture. The young Norwegian architect won the competition for its design in 1958 and the building was inaugurated in 1962. Through six decades, the beloved structure has been mired in phenomenology, poetry, and the personal memory of the select. Looking at the archives, a very different story emerges.
In minute detail, this book presents the history of the origins and making of the Nordic Pavilion; spanning from the geopolitical context in an increasingly tense Cold War atmosphere, to the aggregates in the concrete of the audacious roof construction, to the iconic trees, many of which had already died before the second exhibition in 1964.
Sverre Fehn, Nordic Pavilion, Venice. Voices from the Archives documents the extensive cast involved in the making of the Nordic Pavilion, spanning from kings, prime ministers, bureaucrats, ambassadors, museum directors, architects, and a myriad of artists’ associations, to Venetian dignitaries, engineers, gardeners, lawyers, and plumbers. The pavilion was conceived and built against the backdrop of friendships and animosities, power play and diplomacy. The detours and disappointments, the successes and failures of the Venice affair make a prism in miniature to understand the mindset and conflicting ambitions of the Nordic countries in the 1950s and 1960s. Richly illustrated with previously unpublished images, among them many photographs taken by Fehn himself, the archival evidence also sheds new light on one of the great Nordic architects of the recent past.