Forms of Freedom. African independence and nordic models

23 January 2015–19 April 2015

The National Museum – Architecture, Fehn Pavilion

Mutual belief in progress

The liberation of Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia in the 1960s coincided with the founding of state development aid in the Nordic countries, where there was widespread belief that the social democratic model could be exported, translated, and used for nation-building, modernization and welfare in Africa.

The leaders of the new African states wanted partners without a murky colonial past, and established solid bonds with the Nordic countries, built on a mutual belief in progress. During a few intense years in the 60s and 70s, Nordic architects contributed to the rapid process of modernization in this part of Africa.

Architecture in Nordic development aid– an unexplored field

The exhibition revolves around two concepts. “Building Freedom” denotes nation-building through city planning, infrastructure and industry, and institutions for education, health, and state bureaucracy. “Finding Freedom”, conversely, points at the modernist, experimental free area that emerged from the encounter between Nordic aid and African nation-building, where progressive ideas could be developed as architectural solutions on a par with the international avant-garde.

The exhibition tells the incomplete story of this architectural production, exploring how these works were absorbed, rejected, adapted and transformed, and opens up a so far unexplored field in architecture history. The exhibition was first shown in the Nordic Pavilion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2014, where it received 200 000 visitors.

Curator: Nina Berre
Co-curator: Gro Bonesmo (Space Group)
Project Manager: Nina Frang Høyum

Produced by The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Norway; in collaboration with the Architecture and Design Centre in Sweden and the Museum of Finnish Architecture.

Supported byThe Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Nordic Culture Fund and Culture Point North

The National Museum – Architecture

Address: Bankplassen 3, Oslo

Watch the film Kibaha, then and now, about the Kibaha Education Center, a Nordic education centre in, Tanzania.

Watch a time lapse video of the last preparations for the exhibition when it was shown at the Architecture Biennale in Venice.


Download the pamphlet for the exhibition as PDF (3 Mb)