Estonia’s exhibit at the 17th Venice Biennale of Architecture is Square! Positively Shrinking. The curators are Jiří Tintěra, Garri Raagmaa, Kalle Vellevoog, Martin Pedanik, and Paulina Pähn, on behalf of the Estonian Center for Architecture.
Watch the trailer “Square! Positively shrinking” © Anna Hints, Kalle Vellevoog
For a whole string of reasons, city shrinkage is happening all over Europe. Estonia’s pavilion will investigate the role of quality urban spaces in revitalizing small cities experiencing urban depopulation.
According to the curatorial team, “The causes of shrinking cities are global, but their effects are local. To counter this phenomenon, we need to focus on improving the quality of life of residents, while strengthening local awareness and identity. Our message is that quality urban spaces can play a key role here, and that the input of cities and architects is therefore crucial.”
Urbanization and suburbanization often have a greater impact on local communities than emigration and dwindling birth rates. In fact, 45 of Estonia’s 47 cities have lost a significant percentage of their population since the 2000s.
Urban voids and brownfield sites are the most obvious signs of shrinking cities. Both trigger a chain reaction that affects the quality of the surrounding built environment. This in turn has negative impacts on residents. And so the vicious circle of dereliction continues.
By examining the social, economic, and environmental impacts of deurbanization, Square! Positively Shrinking will showcase ways of creating new identities for shrinking cities through the demolition of buildings, proactive housing policies, the restoration of historic buildings, and the revitalization of urban spaces.
The exhibition, in which video will play a central role, showcases the results of Great Public Spaces (Hea avalik ruum), an important program introduced as a part of the Estonia 100 Architecture Program that focuses on developing the urban spaces of shrinking cities. Set up as part of the country’s centenary, the program’s objective was to regenerate the centers and public spaces of fifteen Estonian cities by 2020. The plazas in central Tõrva, Põlva, Valga, and Rapla were completed in 2018; in Võru and Kuressaare, in 2019; and in Elva and Rakvere, in 2020.
Exhibition: “Square! Positively shrinking”
Location: Arsenale — La Biennale di Venezia
Address: Sestiere Castello, Campo della Tana 2169/F
Curators: Jiří Tintěra, Garri Raagmaa, Kalle Vellevoog, Martin Pedanik, Paulina Pähn
Photo: ©Tõnu Tunnel, Tiit Veermäe, Anna Hints