Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019

The Architecture of Degrowth

Around the world campaigners, cities, and governments are declaring a state of emergency in response to accelerating global warming. Meanwhile systemic inequality continues to entrench deep divides between those who have far too little, and those who have far too much. In this unprecedented moment, an urgent question is cast into relief: how should architecture respond to a time of climate emergency and social division?

For the last two centuries, the engine of architectural production and the basis of societies around the world has been the pursuit of economic growth. The desire for infinite growth has forced aside common and ecological goals measuring acts of culture and community as mere bumps in GDP. Yet the limits to this paradigm have become abundantly clear. As equity, wellbeing and non-monetary measures of prosperity falter, rising sea temperatures, extreme weather and other indicators of climate breakdown converge on the conclusion that the days of growth’s predominance are running out.

Architecture is no exception. The promise of a meaningful life’s work harnessing the transformative power of design to mix beauty and social justice is deeply felt. Yet for many, our daily practice looks very different to the work we aspired to. The majority of urban practitioners are not the agents of social change they might have been, but cogs in a vast value-producing machine whose hunger for expansion is never abated. Homes have become vehicles of capital speculation, galleries have become billboards for attracting investment, streets have become the infrastructure of consumption, universities export enlightenment for profit.

In our bones we know that infinite economic growth is impossible. We know that money cannot buy happiness. We know that change is coming. Yet our professions continue to toil at the coalface of economic expansion cultivating consumption in pursuit of a prize that is never enough.

ENOUGH will respond to an era of climate emergency and social inequality by proposing alternatives to the unsustainable and unfair paradigm of growth. The festival will explore the architecture of Degrowth, an economy of shared plenty in which human and ecological flourishing matter most. It is time to call time on too much for the few and too little for the many. Join us as we propose a vision of Enough for all.

Institutions of Degrowth
The venues of the core programme tell a story of a city lived in. A 19th century bank repurposed as a museum and extended with a modernist glass and concrete pavilion; two old power stations, adjusted and extended into the 20th century and eventually transformed into a design policy think tank and a school of architecture and design— new kinds of transformation stations; and a car garage, wedged into an acute triangle, reaching out and plunging downward as though it were holding the city back from slipping into the river valley below.

These spaces represent an old way of being in the city, when the life of buildings was an open-ended tale of adjustment and inhabitation. By contrast, today the average lifespan of a skyscraper in Manhattan is 30 years as the pursuit of economic growth incentivises often ill-fated speculative development and crass gentrification. Looking to a future architecture of Degrowth, we may learn something from the old, awkward and adventurous characters of our cities.

When over determined, architecture creates fixed and brittle ideas about how life in the city should be lead. In that prescriptive city, our culture is also prescribed; our cultural venues become spaces of passive viewing where an exhibition is browsed like the latest collection in a fashion boutique. In that city we are constricted; locked in, unable to reappropriate our precious resources to build a better future. Inspired by the old venues of Oslo, the core programme of the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019 will inhabit and transform robust existing building fabric to create new institutions of Degrowth: the library, the theatre, the playground, and the academy.

The Library celebrates sharing, de-commodification, and democratisation of goods and ideas in a welcoming heart of a community.

The Theatre reveals the constructed-ness of our world that invites participants to question reality and actively explore generating alternatives.

The Playground initiates a deeper game of exploring and listening to the city reclaiming the streets as a site of joyful and thoughtful experimentation.

The Academy offers a platform for discussion and research to battle injustice and extraction.

Read about the OAT 2019 core programme venues here: