Exhibition: Custom Made – Naturalizing Tradition


Custom Made refers to the interplay between convention and customization. The former relates to customs –traditions, while the latter relates to customized approaches by the individual practitioners –architects. The exhibition is conceptualized around central elements constituting architecture: The Wall and The Book. The Wall shows architecture as built within a school of thought: it illustrates the tradition of production by referring to the physical building environment. The Book shows architecture as written and represented: it exposes the production of tradition by referring to how architecture is understood, discussed and legitimized.

The Wall is an inventory accentuating some of Norwegian architecture’s most distinguishing debates and dogmas – the notions of nature and the naturalized as a tour de force in architectural production from 1945 to the present day. It is a collage of project photographs and drawings structured around three different, yet intertwined, approaches to nature: nature as found, nature amplified and nature imagined. The first deals with nature as a physical constraint directly informing architectural production. The second uses nature to stage and amplify architecture. The third projects nature as a conceptual platform from which architectural imageries emerge. The Wall expands on   how the idea of nature has been naturalized and subsequently disseminated within Norwegian architectural culture. It presents projects customized around new building technologies and materials, climate driven designs, mass-housing production, evolving handicraft and connotative practices. Such proliferation of approaches to nature within Norwegian architecture renders their relevance in terms of the current discussions of sustainability. The selected projects implicitly relate to the idea of a frugal and restrained architecture – an architecture that engages the world of limited resources, yet without proclaiming political significance.
The Book is an embodiment of the total Norwegian architectural discourse from 1945 to the present day. This 165,228 page long collection contains 2126 books, catalogues, pamphlets, magazines and manuals classified under the DDC code 72 subset “Norwegian language”. It relates to a series of precedents which aim to reproduce and embody total knowledge, such as the project of Cité Mondiale by the Belgian scientist Paul Otlet from 1920s, the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges´ La biblioteca de Babel from 1941, and the latest example being the printing of 0.01% of Wikipedia by the British student Rob Matthews in 2012. The Book projects two interdependent perspectives: it exposes the increasing collection of written knowledge within the field of architecture simultaneously as it shows the expansion of themes within the architectural discourse.

Custom Made is not about projecting a new canon onto Norwegian architecture. It is about proliferation and multitude. This exhibition exposes the ecology of architectural culture in Norway, not as a singular and unanimous tradition, but as a collection of customized precedents, both the built and the written ones.

Mirza Mujezinovic / Halvor Weider Ellefsen

wall diagram

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