After Belonging: The 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale Will Throw the Spotlight on Global Migration

Adrian Lopez Medina Adrian Lopez Medina

As the global circulation of people, information and goods transforms, the world is becoming a smaller place, and as a result, notions of belonging have become destabilized. Home was once the place for one’s roots, a symbolic source of familiarity and the collective accumulation of memories. However, since pushing mobility to the extreme, our understanding of spatial permanence, property ownership and identity has been abruptly challenged. Today, being “home” seems to be an ephemeral condition, and mobility has led to growing inequalities for large groups, kept in precarious states of transit.

What does it now mean to inhabit, to dwell, to belong?

Beginning this Thursday, the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale — entitled “After Belonging” — aims to address this crisis, critiquing objects, spaces and territories pertaining to the transforming conditions of belonging. In an interview with curators Lluís Alexandre Casanovas Blanco, Ignacio Galán, Carlos Mínguez Carrasco, Alejandra Navarrete Llopis and Marina Otero Verzier, Architizer got an insight into how “After Belonging” will examine our evolving attachment to places as well as our relations to the objects we own, share and exchange.

It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave: Monica Navarro, Damon Casarez (2014); courtesy of the author

Adrián López: In the current climate, how has architecture retained — or failed to retain — its agency in place-making or creating a sense of belonging?

Oslo Architecture Triennale Curators: For us, both place-making and the construction of a sense of belonging constitute one among many other possible agendas for which architecture could be mobilized. Architecture has served for a number of ideological endeavors to which we might not necessarily subscribe: As some historical accounts have decoded, architectural production has been crucial in vindicating national identities.

We would not want to consider place-making or the production of belonging as intrinsic to architectural production. Quite the contrary, the Triennale intends to critically inspect how architecture is articulated towards specific ends in the transformation of belonging and to speculate on alternative trajectories for architectural production.

American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Paul Macleod (2015); courtesy of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital

Can you describe the two parts of the 2016 Triennale — entitled “On Residence” and “In Residence” — and explain how they will provoke conversations around the transformations of belonging?

“On Residence” will collectively analyze the spatial conditions that shape our ways of staying in transit and examine the definition of our contemporary spaces of residence. For “In Residence,” international architects and professionals concerned with the built environment will engage in local collaborations in Oslo, the Nordic region and around the globe to intervene in the transformation of the residence.

“In Residence” is organized around 10 case studies entangled within contemporary transformations of belonging and invites speculation on new modes of architectural intervention. The different locations deal with the diversity of scales and media involved in these processes. The sites include an apartment in Copenhagen rented through digital sharing platforms, an asylum seekers’ center in Oslo, a house resulting from the remittances sent to the coffee-growing region of Colombia and a patient room in the Dubai Healthcare City.

Asylum Seekers’ Center in Oslo, Moments of Freedom, Javad Parsa (2013); courtesy of the author

Global migration is a very timely topic given the widespread coverage of the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. Can you speak to the local conditions in Oslo that make the subject especially relevant to the Nordic region?

Some of the issues that we propose to deal with in the Triennale have acquired a certain urgency in recent months, even if they depend on more structural conditions of contemporary, neoliberal regimes aggravated by recent geopolitical conflicts. Our project was initiated before the refugee crisis attained its present magnitude and the wider media coverage.

It is important for us to locate these questions that are posed by the refugee crisis in a larger context. It is a topic that not only addresses issues related to refugees or processes like temporary shelters, but also a range of questions related to the global transformation of the residence. This emphasis on residence allows us to reflect, analyze and even intervene in complex geopolitical conflicts through architecture that precedes, shelters or results from them.

This global condition is definitely present in Norway and particularly in Oslo. There are, at present, more than 230 million migrants around the world; in Oslo, over 30 percent of the population consists of immigrants. The World Tourism Organization establishes the number of tourist arrivals — stays not exceeding 12 months — at over one billion on average for the last several years.

The World Bank specifies this number at five million just for Norway, roughly the same as its so-called “stable” population. We even like to consider that the recent transformation of Norway’s identity documents and currency design might be related to a reconsideration of the nation’s identity. These are only facts and data, but they show the relevance of the Triennale within its particular context.

Ron Herron’s Walking City; via ArchiPress—One—

When thinking about how the issue of migration intersects with architecture, we often turn to avant-garde projects like Ron Herron’s Walking City. But are there better or more realizable examples in which contemporary architecture can address this topic?

The premise of our proposal for the Triennale is that architecture is already imbricated in the transformation of belonging. Yet a disciplinary discussion on its current role in this transformation and its effects — as well as alternative possibilities — is still very much needed. However, we are as far from the advocating of nomadism in a number of projects of the second half of the century — like the one you mention — as from conditions that celebrate a return to local traditions and rooted communities.

Many critical projects exploring nomadism were grounded in the pursuit of a cosmopolitan, secular society, freed from local ties. However, this same mobility has become the basis of neoliberal regimes that have led to the precarization of labor, massive concentrations of wealth and dispossessed populations kept in transit. These phenomena run parallel to a new rise of nationalism and religious fanaticism.

The realities grouped under the disciplinary exploration of nomadism require very different kinds of analysis and speculations. We know that not everybody circulates voluntarily, nor in the same way, and architecture plays a key role in the construction of those differences. The different architectures entangled within this movement of people, information and goods is what this Triennale would like to assess.

The 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale: After Belonging will take place from September 8 to November 27, 2016. Stay tuned for more coverage from the event itself. For more information, please visit After Belonging at

Top image: Kirkenes Harbor, Mathis Herbert (2009); courtesy of the author

Read more articles by Adrian

Young Architect Guide: 10 Essentials for Every Architecture Student’s First Semester

These items are designed to make college life just that little bit easier.

Home Alone: The Surreal Lonely Houses of Instagram Artist Manuel Pita

“Seeking everyday magic.” This is the tagline for Manuel Pita’s Instagram page (@s ejkko). In this reporter’s opinion, however, the sentiment is too humble: Sejkko doesn’t find everyday magic as much as he uses his artistry to infuse magic into the everyday. The tool he uses to achieve his alchemy is one that will be familiar…