The Danish Pavilion: Coastal Imaginaries


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From Denmark to the World: Nature-based Design can Help Solve Global Challenges on Our Coasts

The Danish Pavilion is proud to announce the title, content and team behind its submission to the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which will run from May 20 to November 26, 2023.

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 trade 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

Visitors to the Danish pavilion will gain insight into concrete principles for how nature can be utilized for coastal protection and climate adaptation, as well as how these principles can be applied in various locations around the world. They will experience a dramatic narrative that shows, through future scenarios, how the Copenhagen coastline might evolve if we employ nature-based solutions.

“We need ideas that are based on hope and optimism for the future and that embrace a new view of nature and a new world view in the shaping of the coastal landscape. And yet, in order to find the landscapes of the future, all we have to do is travel back in time. Examples of nature-based design can be found all over the planet, throughout history, and in a wide range of local adaptation traditions for living with water. They are always anchored in a deep understanding of the context of the specific location in which they are used,” explains Michau.

In the two historical buildings that house the Danish pavilion, Carl Brummer’s from 1932 and Peter Koch’s from 1958, visitors will be able to explore the exhibition of sustainable solutions to 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.

In addition to their coast-protection elements, the solutions also have the potential to serve as recreational areas for people and habitats for other species, as carbon storage, and as sources of food and materials.

“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,” says Jakob Engel-Schmidt, Denmark’s Minister for Culture.

“On behalf of the Danish Ministry of Culture and the participating team, we’re proud to present a highly topical and globally relevant exhibition on climate challenges, rising sea levels and biodiversity that we think will garner international attention,” says Kent Martinussen, CEO of Danish Architecture Center and commissioner of the official Danish submission to the Biennale Architettura 2023.

The Danish pavilion is made possible with funding from the philanthropic association Realdania:

“Cities around the world are gearing up for the consequences of climate change and rising sea levels. I’m delighted that the Danish exhibition caters to all the senses and doesn’t shy away from addressing the challenges by presenting creative examples of the nature-based solutions of the future,” says Nina Kovsted Helk, Head of Philanthropy at Realdania.

Complex Challenges Require an Interdisciplinary Approach

Josephine Michau, curator of the Danish pavilion, brings with her a range of expertise in relation to climate adaptation of our coastal landscapes.

The exhibition’s content is being 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, will be translating parts of the research into sensory and spatial experiences, making the coastal landscapes of the future more tangible for visitors to the pavilion.

The International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is one of the most important international cultural events, and it is the ambition of this year’s submission for the Danish pavilion to call all visitors’ attention to new solutions and visions for the coastal landscapes of the future and the consequences of climate change in Copenhagen and the rest of the world.

The Danish Architecture Center has been appointed by the Danish Ministry of Culture as commissioner of the official Danish submission at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The project is sponsored by Realdania, the Ministry of Culture Denmark, and the Danish Arts Foundation’s Committee for Architecture Grants and Project Funding.

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Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj