FORMS OF FREEDOM. African independence and Nordic models

7 June 2014–23 November 2014

The 14th International Architecture Biennale
The Nordic Pavilion, Venice, 7 June–23 November 2014

The exhibition in the Nordic Pavilion in Venice shows how modern Scandinavian architecture became an essential component of foreign aid to East Africa in the period 1960–80, and how the ideals of the Nordic welfare system found expression in a number of construction projects. In 2014 the National Museum in Norway is in charge of curating and organizing the Nordic Pavilion, in collaboration with the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design in Stockholm.

Architecture in Nordic development aid
The exhibition at the Nordic Pavilion has been titled “FORMS OF FREEDOM: African Independence and Nordic Models”. The exhibition will explore and document how modern Nordic architecture was an integral part of Nordic aid to East Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. The resulting architecture is of a scope and quality that has not previously been comprehensively studied or exhibited.

Mutual belief in progress
The liberation of Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia in the 1960s coincided with the founding of development aid in the Nordic countries, where there was widespread belief that the social democratic model could be exported, translated, and used for economic growth and welfare. The leaders of the new African states, for their part, wanted partners without a murky colonial past and looked to emulate the progressive results achieved by the Nordic welfare states after WWII. The Nordic social democracies and the new African states established solid bonds built on a mutual belief in progress.

An unexplored field in architecture history
The Nordic architecture in East Africa has yet to be studied and documented by historians of Nordic and international architecture. The exhibition, which the National Museum in Norway is developing in collaboration with the architectural firm Space Group, revolves around two concepts. “Building Freedom” denotes the architectural nation-building where master plans were used to build cities and regions, prototypes and prefabricated systems were used to build education and health centres, and so on. “Finding Freedom”, conversely, denotes the experimental free area that emerged from this 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.

Exhibition produced by
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Norway

In collaboration with
The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design and
The Museum of Finnish Architecture

The exhibition has been supported by
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Nordic Culture Fund and Culture Point North

Exhibition architects
Space Group


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.