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Oslo curators aiming for ‘most practical triennale ever’

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The Oslo Architecture Triennale (OAT) 2019 will profile the ‘really bold and practical’ ways architects can embrace degrowth in buildings and society, according to its UK-based curators

Announcing the festival’s theme – ‘Enough’ – the curatorial team criticised the ‘stuffiness’ of architectural culture seen in biennales and conferences and instead promised a ‘low-brow event with lots of access points’ and practical, take-home lessons.

Phineas Harper, co-chief curator and deputy director of the Architecture Foundation, said: ‘Too many architecture biennales fall into the trap of being so zoomed out in their political scope that they have very little to say about day-to-day contemporary practice.’

OAT 2019 will feature more than 100 contributors, including architects, artists, economists, live-action role-players and sci-fi writers, with installations occupying mountain tops, comic book stores and national museums, said Harper, and could even be ‘a bit joyful at times’.

He said: ‘There should be no contradiction between exploring very big ideas while being rooted in everyday challenges. This will be a triennale bursting with bold visions of tomorrow but also practical ideas for architects and urban practitioners to take forward.’

Harper, Interrobang founder Maria Smith and associate Matthew Dalziel, and Norwegian researcher, lecturer and artist Cecilie Sachs Olsen were chosen to devise the festival in 2017. Their winning bid proposed to investigate the ‘potential architecture of degrowth’ at a time of escalating environmental crisis.

The festival, running for six weeks from 26 September to 24 November, will encourage architects to embrace shared infrastructure in their designs, to fall ‘back in love with maintenance’ and to ‘design together for the joyful social ritual,’ said Smith.

She said: ‘Degrowth makes the stuff many of us went into architecture for in the first place become possible.’

OAT 2019’s theme ‘Enough’ invites architects, clients and urbanists to imagine how our built environment might be different if infinite growth was no longer required, according to the Interrobang founder.

The curators say it will also be the first biennale or triennale event in architecture to feature performance and theatre at its core.

‘We need to think of architects as spatial therapists and approach design in a more contentious and low resource way,’ said Smith, adding: ‘Little things can make a huge impact and change doesn’t have to feel like a huge paradigm shift.’

Projects that will feature in the main ‘library’ exhibition – hosted within Oslo’s National Museum of Architecture – include an exploration of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ work with skateboarders on the London’s South Bank, a futuristic graphic novel, a three-handled vacuum cleaner for multiple users by emerging collective EDIT and a prototype anaerobic digester by Public Works.

Smith said: ’The library will be full of content which could influence future briefs from here on out.’

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