Skip to content

Vernacular architecture and its reinterpretation: the Slovenian pavilion at the Venice Biennale – Podcast Odprto #29

In this episode of Odprto (Eng. Open) podcast, we talk to the authors of the Slovenian pavilion about their contribution to the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale.

The curator of the 2023 edition, Lesley Lokko, wanted to explore the potential of architecture as a vehicle for change in our reality. The reality she wants to intervene in with the Biennial exhibition is saturated with injustice, tensions and bad prospects, while in her opinion architecture can bring about a modern, diverse and inclusive society. For the first time at the Venice Biennale, she puts Africa and the African diaspora at the centre, finally giving it a voice, and presents decolonisation and decarbonisation as its starting themes.

Curators of the Slovenian pavilion in Venice: Eva Gusel, Jure Grohar, Maša Mertelj, Matic Vrabič and Anja Vidic; Photography: Klemen Ilovar

The open call for a Slovenian pavilion at the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale was won by a joint application from Mertelj Vrabič Architects and Vidic Grohar Architects. They are more interested in decarbonisation in architecture than decolonisation. They approach the topic by exploring vernacular architecture through their fascination with the shepherd’s hut on the Velika Planina mountain. They understand vernacular architecture as a living set of architectural principles that address the energy efficiency of buildings through spatial design, without the additional layer of high-tech devices that provide living comfort today. A selection of examples focuses on heating and cooling. This is reinterpreted through the spatial design of the pavilion. Ecological construction is based on architectural design as an alternative to the current search for solutions in technology.

Space compression; layout, Slovenian pavilion, design: Mertelj Vrabič Architects and Vidic Grohar Architects, Photography: Klemen Ilovar

The Biennale project was divided into three parts by the architectural team consisting of Jure Grohar, Eva Guselj, Maša Mertelj, Anja Vidic and Matic Vrabič: initial research and collection of a set of examples of vernacular architecture, design and installation of the pavilion at the Biennale with a selection of examples, and the final conference on energy efficiency at the Museum of Architecture and Design in November 2023. The architectural team worked with photographer Klemen Ilovar and designer Žiga Testen. The commissioner of the Slovenian pavilion was Maja Vardjan.

Intermediate zone; layout, Slovenian pavilion; design: Mertelj Vrabič Architects in Vidic Grohar Architects, Photography: Klemen Ilovar

We asked Matic and Jure about the process and production of the pavilion, about their understanding of the vernacular, about the reinterpretation and applicability of the selection of principles, as well as about the motivation for applying for the call and the current situation of the Biennale.

Slovenian pavilion, design: Mertelj Vrabič Architects in Vidic Grohar Architects, Photography: Klemen Ilovar

The podcast was prepared by Blaž Šenica and Tadej Urh in collaboration with OHS.

In collaboration with Mertelj Vrabič Architects and Vidic Grohar Architects.

The Odprto/Open podcast is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture in 2023.