Aesthetics challenge rationality in Venice

Statistics, laws and good arguments are challenged by butterflies, poetry and dirt in the Danish pavilion in Venice. The Danish pavilion reintroduces the forgotten power of aesthetics as a challenge to the dominant rationalistic approach, not only to architecture but also to literature, art, nature and science.

The Danish landscape architect and curator of the Danish pavilion, Stig L. Andersson argues that the aesthetic approach and the forgotten modernity it represents are essential for our common road into a sustainable future. The Danish pavilion reintroduces the power of aesthetics as a complement to the rational.

Butterflies challenge the law
In the Danish pavilion you are invited to use your senses, wonder, be curious and reflect: when you meet the smell of dirt; read Niels Bohr’s letter to Einstein; hear the sound of poetry; watch a butterfly; and bury your toes in pine needles. These sensuous, poetic and tactile elements challenge paragraphs from Denmark’s planning laws, which are also on display in the pavilion. You are invited to reflect on how to make decisions for a sustainable future from both a rationalist and an aesthetic perspective.

Curator, professor, and landscape architect Stig L. Andersson said:

“For far too long, whenever we had to make a case for what our future should look like, we have focused only on the rational aspect. We have not understood that the aesthetic aspect complements the rational. This means that we must find an entirely new language to talk about the value of aesthetics: a language, in which the sensuous amenity value of a tree is as important as the tree’s usefulness in terms of soaking up rain water, absorbing CO2 and making our house prices soar.”

The exhibition, Empowerment of Aesthetics insists on new sensuous and sustainable symbiosis between rationality and aesthetics: between architecture and nature. It is a reflection on the fundamentals of modern Danish society, which emerged in the mid-19th Century. This was the short pocket of time after the collapse of Romanticism, but before the much-lauded Danish welfare state fully emerged. The poetic interaction between architecture, literature, art, nature and science liberated an unprecedented energy and a belief in a dynamic society hitherto unseen in Denmark or elsewhere.

Debating the future of Denmark
The Danish pavilion is part of a larger project, which is debating the future of Denmark: DK2050. Rationality and aesthetics are both crucial elements in this major scenario project, as we develop images of future Danish cities and regions. DK2050 poses a whole range of questions. How will we live in Denmark in the year 2050? What challenges and dilemmas will confront us along the way? How can cities, politicians and each one of us play a role and influence the decision making on our common road into a sustainable future?

Commissioner Kent Martinussen, CEO, Danish Architecture Centre said:

”We need to dare look into the future and face some of the tough dilemmas. This new project, DK2050 is a unique collaboration between the public and private sectors, scientists and the Danish population. Together they develop and debate the dilemmas facing us, when we look at climate change and the necessary green transition ahead of us.”

Read more about DK2050 and see a full list of the project partners and participants at