Empowerment of Aesthetics —
Venice Architecture Biennale

In 2014, the founder of SLA, Stig L. Andersson, was asked to curate the Danish Pavilion. The resulting exhibition reintroduces the power of aesthetics as an essential complementary to the rational.

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Line Agnes Bjørløw Skjærlund

Head of Business Development


Venice, Italy


June — November 2014


The Danish Ministry of Culture


Curator of the Danish Pavillion

Partners & Collaborators

DAC - Danish Architecture Center



What do butterflies, quantum mechanics, poetry, and dirt have to do with architecture? In the Danish pavilion of the Venice Biennale, you were invited to sense, wonder, be curious, and reflect when you meet the smell of dirt, read Niels Bohr’s letter to Einstein, hear the sound of poetry, and bury your toes in pine needles. The pavilion reintroduces the forgotten power of aesthetics as the complementary to the rational. It argues that the two together should form the foundation for our future decision-making.

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fig. 2 'Stalingrad (le non-lieu où le fou-rire du courage),' painting by Asger Jorn (1956), courtesy of Museum Jorn

Bohr and Einstein debated the complementarity of quantum mechanics almost a hundred years ago. In the Danish pavilion, Stig L. Andersson argues that Bohr’s philosophical aesthetic approach – and the forgotten modernity it represents – is critical for our common road into a sustainable future. The Danish pavilion reintroduces the power of aesthetics as an essential complementarity to the rational.

A forgotten modernity meets the future

The curator of the 14th International Architecture Biennale, Rem Koolhaas has asked the national exhibitions to adhere to the legacy of the previous century. By inventing The Nordic Welfare State Denmark assigned architecture a crucial role in planning and, almost obsessively, designing in detail the physical setting for a 20th-century modern, urban, democratic lifestyle. However, today this authentic integration of architecture and welfare culture can no longer be taken for granted. We need to rethink our common future and recall the aesthetic qualities of modernity and let them meet the more dominant rationalistic approach.

fig. 4 Sketch of Time Span by Asger Jorn (1962), sketch on paper, courtesy of Museum Jorn Silkeborg.
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fig. 5 Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. Photograph by Paul Ehrenfest (1925), courtesy AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives.
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Butterflies and poetry

In the exhibition, you are invited to sense, wonder, be curious, and reflect when you meet the smell of dirt, read Niels Bohr’s letter to Einstein, hear the sound of poetry and bury your toes in pine needles.

The exhibition ’Empowerment of Aesthetics’ insists on a new sensuous and sustainable symbiosis between rationality and aesthetics – between architecture and nature. It is a reflection on the fundamentals of the modern Danish society, which emerged in the mid19th Century: The short pocket of time after the collapse of Romanticism but before the heralded Danish welfare state fully emerged; where the poetic interaction between architecture, literature, art, nature, and science liberated unprecedented energy and a belief in a dynamic society hitherto unseen in Denmark and elsewhere

“My ambition is to present the interrelationship of forgotten, repressed or underexposed parts of the dynamic Danish modernity. Not only in the history of architecture, but also in science, art and poetry.”

— Stig L. Andersson
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fig. 9 In this passage hung 1,000 pages of the Danish laws. A rationality-based framework opon which our politicians are expected to make their decisions on how to create a better world. This is an incomplete basis.
fig. 10 Find the official catalog for Empowerment of Aesthetics through the links below.

In 2015, our official exhibition catalog was honored with The Association for Book-Craft’s award for Best Bookwork of the Year. You can find the catalog digitally on Issue and order a physical copy here.


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