Mennesker foran BLOX

Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj

Coastal Imaginaries


May 20 - November 26, 2023


Architecture Biennale
Venice, Italy

Under the heading Coastal Imaginaries, the Danish pavilion, curated by Josephine Michau, will shine a spotlight on nature-based design solutions in the struggle against global challenges like rising sea levels and storm floods.

The pavilion’s team represents a collaboration between landscape architectural firm Schønherr and leading researchers, artists, Danish industry organizations and scientific institutions.

“We’re in the middle of the Anthropocene Age – that is, the age of mankind – where geologists have declared humanity to be a geological force on equal terms with volcanoes, meteor strikes and tectonic shifts. Humans are contributing to many of the crises we are facing today, including the biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, the environmental crisis, and the food crisis. We not only have the opportunity, but also the duty, to take action and reverse this trend, and the architects who design our physical surroundings play a vital role in this,” says the Curator Josephine Michau.

Coastal Landscapes of the Future

Photo: Anna Aslaug Lund

Coastal Imaginaries is a dramatic narrative that through future scenarios show how the Copenhagen coastline might evolve if we employ nature-based solutions. With a combination of speculative scenography and displays of novel research projects, the exhibition invites the audience to explore the fragility and beauty of the coastal landscape.

As a laboratory of hope in the midst of universal hopelessness, Coastal Imaginaries offers a catalogue of proposals for a coastal future grounded in nature-based and sustainable solutions. Visitors at the Danish Pavilion will therefore gain insight into concrete principles for how we can adapt to the rising sea levels and ever more frequent storm floods caused by climate change, which will dramatically change our coastal landscapes this century.

Copenhagen Islands: A Nature-Based Development of the Danish Capital

As a part of the exhibition visitors can experience Copenhagen Islands, a research-based vision for the architectural development of the Copenhagen metropolitan area. The vision is created by landscape architecture studio Schønherr in collaboration with a group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus School of Architecture, and the Technical University of Denmark.

Due to its low-lying position, Copenhagen is one of several areas of the world that are particularly at risk from storm surges and rising sea levels brought about by climate change. In order for the city to survive, Copenhagen’s landscape infrastructure therefore needs to be readdressed. Through a series of annotated maps Schønherr presents a future vision for Copenhagen, that works directly in harmony with nature, and that brings the city’s inhabitants closer to the landscape rather than distancing them from it.

Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj

“Danish architecture has a great deal to contribute when it comes to solving the challenges society faces today. This year’s Danish Pavilion submission spotlights climate change, which is one of our generation’s biggest societal challenges. I hope the Danish submission can inspire other countries to use nature to mitigate the consequences of climate change.”

– Jakob Engel-Schmidt, Denmark’s Minister for Culture.

Mermaid Bay: The Little Mermaid Has Left the Rock

Christian Friedländer is the exhibition designer of Coastal Imaginaries, and as part of the exhibition he is also presenting the installation work Mermaid Bay.

Mermaid Bay is a 55-minute-long staged scenario, that utilizes the diorama, a three-dimensional scenography, as its central visual element. Through a theatrical landscape made up of an evocative soundtrack and a radiant light design, the installation creates a science fiction narrative, set in a near future heavily affected by climate change.

In alignment with the nature-based solutions that the research and landscape architecture elements of Coastal Imaginaries present, Mermaid Bay addresses the vulnerability of today’s coastal landscapes and the stark reality of climate change. The scenography depicts a near-future Copenhagen coastline, where large parts of the city is completely vanished by the rising sea level. An empty rock, left by The Little Mermaid who has reunited with her natural element, the ocean, tells a story of surrendering to the landscape and incorporating nature into human life rather than working against it.

Biennale - Coastal Imaginaries - Installation

Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj

About Josephine Michau

Josephine Michau has a master’s degree in business administration and philosophy and is co-founder and CEO of  Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAFx). Since 2014, CAFx has communicated architecture and urbanism to the public through a program of 100-200 annual activities. In 2015 the festival received a prize from the Danish Architecture Association for its ability “…to think about the communication of architecture, highlight its qualities and diversity, and create relevant debate”

In 2019, Josephine Michau received the Henning Larsen Foundation Award for “…her tireless and fascinating commitment to understanding, communicating and engaging people in the landscape of architecture in our lives …”

In the context of CAFx she has initiated and co-authored several articles, publications and film productions + conducted yearly workshops on film and architecture since 2016.

“The Danish exhibition will inspire hope by pointing to solutions and engaging visitors in a way that touches their hearts and minds; where the senses, intellect and community form a symbiotic bond,” says Josephine Michau.

Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj

Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj


Complex Challenges Require an Interdisciplinary Approach

The exhibition’s content has been developed in collaboration with landscape architectural firm Schønherr and a number of Denmark’s leading researchers and students from various Danish institutions, including architect and landscape architect Anna Aslaug Lund – representing the research project Mitigating Sea Level Rise, which is being conducted as a partnership between the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the Aarhus School of Architecture (ARCH) and the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) – as well as architect and Associate Professor David Garcia and students in the Architecture and Extreme Environments graduate master program at the Royal Danish Academy – Architecture, Design, Conservation.

Internationally recognized scenographer and artist Christian Friedländer and Peter Albrechtsen, sound designer, has been translating parts of the research into sensory and spatial experiences, making the coastal landscapes of the future more tangible for visitors to the pavilion.

About the Danish Pavilion

The Ministry of Culture owns the Danish Pavilion in Venice, which is used for the architecture and art biennales. The Ministry of Culture has appointed the Danish Architecture Center as commissioner for the official Danish contribution to the 18th International Architecture Biennale in Venice.

The project is carried out with support from, among others, Realdania, The Ministry of Culture and the Danish Art Foundation’s Architecture Committee.

The Architecture Biennale opens in Venice on 20 May 2023 and can be seen until 26 November 2023.

Read more about Coastal Imaginaries here.

Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj

Photo: La Biennale di Venezia

Chief Curator for the Biennale Architettura 2023

The Scottish-Ghanaian architect Lesley Lokko is the chief curator for the entire Biennale Architecture. Lesley Lokko has a vision that the Biennale should contribute to creating new narratives and languages for architecture that can lift the crisis out of despair.​

Thank you to all contributors


The exhibition is curated by Josephine Michau


Danish Architecture Center is commissioner for the Danish contribution with the overall responsibility for organizing and economy on behalf of The Ministry of Culture.


The exhibition is developed by
Commissioner: Kent Martinussen, CEO of the Danish Architecture Center
Deputy Commissioner: Eva Kirstine Fabricius, Danish Architecture Center
Curator: Josephine Michau
Exhibiting Architects: Schønherr Landscape Architects, David Garcia, Giacomo Brusa Cattaneo, Laurits Sporon Bøving Genz, Dejle Zaradesht Mohamad, Iisa Eikaas, Katrina Wiberg and Anna Aslaug Lund
Exhibiting Artist: Christian Friedländer
Design Team: Christian Friedländer, Ellen Leer, Alexandra Wedderkopp Emelianov, Alexis Mark, Martin Bek Peter Albrechtsen
Consulting Researchers: “The cities and the rising sea levels” – Gertrud Jørgensen, Ole Fryd, Iisa Eikaas and Anna Aslaug Lund (Landscape Architecture, Copenhagen University), Karsten Arnbjerg, Roland Löwe and Anna Lea Eggert (Danish Technological University), Tom Nielsen, Soo Jung Ryu and Katrina Wiberg (Aarhus Architecture School)
Exhibition Installation: M+B studio, Erik Christoffersen, Christian Vest Berntsen, David Drachmann, Guido Liebgen