For over fifteen years, architect and artist Joar Nango has been assembling an archive of books about issues relevant to Indigenous architecture. This year Nango, alongside a team of collaborators, unfolds Girjegumpi: The Sámi Architecture Library—a structure, social space, and source of knowledge around architecture in Sapmi—at the Nordic Countries Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The pavilion officially represents Finland, Norway and Sweden through the Museum of Finnish Architecture, The National Museum of Norway, and ArkDes – The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design.
Girjegumpi is a spatialisation of conversations and research initiated by Joar Nango over two decades of practice at the intersection of architecture and art. As an itinerant, collective library, the project has evolved and expanded with site-specific adaptations as it has travelled to different locations in Sapmi and the broader Nordic region. This journey involves multiple collaborations, including artists and craftspeople such as Katarina Spik Skum, Anders Sunna, Ken Are Bongo, and Anders Rimpi, among others.
Central to Girjegumpi is the archive that it contains and shares – from rare titles to contemporary books, the collection of more than 500 editions embraces topics such as Sami architecture and design, traditional and ancestral building knowledge, activism, and decoloniality. This archive also comprises artworks, materials, design details, and found objects. As a gathering space, it hosts large groups of people. As a reading room, it offers an environment for solitary study and reflection. As a critical project, it builds spaces for Indigenous imagination.
Nomadic by design, Girjegumpi is a living project addressing the relevance of Indigenous culture in architectural discourse and construction today: the importance of collaborative work, building techniques and use of resources in rapidly changing climate conditions, the use of locally grounded material flow and sensitive approaches to landscapes and nature. It highlights the architect’s position towards a more polyphonic understanding of the world.
The Nordic Countries Pavilion, designed by Sverre Fehn in 1962, was conceived to represent forms of cooperation across the Nordic countries. In this context, Girjegumpi opens to an international audience to continue building bodies of knowledge, collaboration and solidarity that transcend national boundaries.
Girjegumpi: The Sámi Architecture Library by Joar Nango and collaborators at the Nordic Countries Pavilion (18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia). Photo: Laurian Ghinițoiu (2023). CC BY-SA 4.0.
The word Girjegumpi is derived from two Northern Sami words: ‘girji’, meaning book, and ‘gumpi’ – a small mobile reindeer herder cabin on sledges, often pulled by a snowmobile. This wordplay refers to a library, an archive, and the construction in which these are stored and transported. Girjegumpi has unfolded in many locations since 2018. When it is not travelling, it is based at the Sámi Dáiddaguovddáš (Sami Centre for Contemporary Art) in Karašjohka/Karasjok. A sister version of Girjegumpi is held by the National Gallery of Canada in Odawag/Ottawa.
Girjegumpi’s collaborators include, among others:
Havard Arnhoff, Ken Are Bongo, Petter Bratland, Stefano Crosera + Margherita Pasqualato (Cantiere Daniele Manin), Mathias Danbolt, Ole-Henrik Einejord, Astrid Fadnes, Jenni Hakovirta, Eirin Hammari, Elin Haugdal, Petri Henriksson, Tone Huse, Robert Julian Hvistendahl, Iver Jaks + Jon Ole Andersen, Anne Kare Kemi, Annik Kristiansen Hagen, maka design, Grete Johanna Minde, Karen Inger Anne Nango, Nils John Nango, Anne Henriette Nilut, Ole Thomas Nilut, Raisa Porsanger, Tobias Aputsiaq Prytz, Anders Rimpi, Katrine Rugeldal, Wimme Saari, Sami Architecture Dictionary Group, Arne-Terje Sather, Katarina Spik Skum, Mary Ailonieida Somban Mari, Četil Somby, Anders Sunna, Anna-Stina Svakko, Eystein Talleraas, Petter Tjikkom, Magnus Antaris Tuolja Collaborating institutions include: Ajtte, Arctic Arts Festival – Festspillene i Nord-Norge, Sami Daiddaguovddaš (SDG), RDM – Samiid Vuorka-Davvirat, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway
Timeline and Locations of Girjegumpi
• 2018: Harsttak/Harstad, Arctic Arts Festival; Markomeannu, Sami Culture and Music Festival; Karašjohka/Karasjok, Sami Daiddaguovddaš (Sami Centre for Contemporary Art).
• 2019: Dalvvadis/Jokkmokk, Jokkmokk’s Market; Gallivare; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada.
• 2020: Bergen, Bergen Kunsthall; Karašjohka/Karasjok, Sami Daiddaguovddaš (Sami Centre for Contemporary Art); Virtual Girjegumpi, ArkDes.
• 2021: Harsttak/Harstad, Arctic Arts Festival; Karašjohka/Karasjok, Sami Daiddaguovddaš (Sami Centre for Contemporary Art); Oslo, Nasjonalmuseet Norway.
• 2022: Helsinki, Kiasma, ARS22; Montreal, Canadian Centre for Architecture, ᐊᖏᕐᕋᒧᑦ / Ruovttu Guvlui / Towards Home; Karašjohka/Karasjok, Sami Daiddaguovddaš (Sami Centre for Contemporary Art.
• 2023: Nordic Countries Pavilion, 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia; following Venice, Girjegumpi will continue to travel.
About Joar Nango
Joar Nango (born in 1979, Alta) is an architect and artist based in Romsa/Tromso, Norway. His work is rootedin Sapmi – the traditional Sami territory covering the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Through building, site-specific interventions, design collaborations, photography, publications and video, Nango’s work explores the role of Sami and Indigenous architecture and craft in contemporary thought. Nango’s work, including the long-term project Girjegumpi, is nurtured by parallel collaborations with other artists, architects, and craftspeople. Among many other initiatives across two decades of practice, he is a founding member of the architecture collective FFB (2010). He has recently collaborated with choreographer and director Elle Sofe Sara on a dance performance with Carte Blanche, which premiered at the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in 2022. Following a winning proposal in 2021, Nango alongside Snohetta, Econor, and 70°N arkitektur are designing the new Sami National Theatre and Sami High School and Reindeer Husbandry School in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, currently under construction. Trained at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Nango graduated in Architecture in 2008. Since then, his work has been presented at documenta 14, Bergen Kunsthall, National Museum Oslo – Architecture, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Chicago Architecture Biennale 2019, Sami Daiddaguovddaš (Sami Centre for Contemporary Art), and Kiasma.
Notes to Editors
• The 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia takes place between 20 May and 26 November, 2023.
• The Nordic Countries Pavilion in Venice is co-owned by Sweden, Finland, and Norway; in 2023, ArkDes (The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design) is in charge of organising the project on behalf of commissioners Kieran Long (ArkDes), Carina Jaatinen, (Museum of Finnish Architecture/MFA), and Stina Hogkvist (The National Museum of Norway).
• The team at ArkDes includes curators Carlos Minguez Carrasco and James Taylor-Foster, project manager Luba Kuzovnikova, with support from Elisabet Norin, Stefan Mossfeldt, and Johanna Fogel.
• Production support in Venice is provided by M+B Studio and eiletz ortigas | architects.
• Girjegumpi is a project first initiated in 2013 by Joar Nango and Festspillene i Nord-Norge.
• Maria Ostman (Press Liason, ArkDes) – email@example.com
ArkDes is Sweden’s national centre for architecture and design. It is a museum, a study centre and an arena for debate and discussion about the future of architecture, design and citizenship.