Rural Office

Rural Office at the Polish Pavilion

Carmarthen-based architecture practice Rural Office has been invited to take part in the ‘Trouble in Paradise’ exhibition at the Polish Pavilion.

Rural Office, an award-winning practice based in Carmarthen with a reputation for delivering considered architecture, strategic thinking and research, is participating in the ‘Trouble in Paradise’ exhibition at the Polish Pavilion 17th International Architecture Exhibition: La Biennale di Venezia 2021. Rural Office specialises in reinterpreting the familiar architectural language of the past within contemporary regional settings, designing, developing and implementing innovative thinking to respond to unique rural landscapes and contexts.

The exhibition, curated by PROLOG +1 collective, sees Rural Office join five fellow European architectural teams as they respond to the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale theme of ‘How will we live together?’ by examining the viability and future of rural landscapes as human environments amid the challenges of local and global issues. ‘Trouble in Paradise’ uses Poland — where ninety-three percent of the country is classified as rural — as a case study, inviting the six participating teams to address the precarious future and untapped potential of life in the countryside. The perceived failure of rural Polish housing today is to refuse the existence of communal amenity, isolating individuals within their own dwellings.

Rural Office’s proposal ‘Społem’ (‘Together’) interrogates the division between public and private space, examining how common spaces might be reframed. Społem considers the notion of togetherness: the spirit of working and living together, collaborating and sharing. The project draws on two key references: Oskar Hansen’s ‘Open Form’ (1953), an architecture conceived as a framework to support everyday life, and Matlakowski’s vernacular studies of Gorale settlements (1892), in which he describes the Gorale hut as being split between a winter ‘black room’ necessary for survival and a summer ‘white room’ necessary for living.

Rural Office’s project combines Hansen and Matlakowski: a black space core provisioning a hearth, kitchen and bathroom that supports the white space for everyday life. The black space hosts the perfunctory; the white space accommodates living, experiment and expansion. The project seeks a balance between individual black-and-white desires and the importance of common, in-between, grey spaces. The clustering of dwellings creates small pieces of land left to be wild or to be cultivated. This sharing and enjoying of common land is integral to Polish cultural identity. The results of these explorations take the form of architectural models, collages and drawings which will be presented in the pavilion against a seventy metre photorealistic landscape titled ‘Panorama of the Polish Countryside’. The panorama, created in collaboration with Polish artists, acts as the backdrop for these future proposals, depicting the Polish landscape as characterised by its use and development.


‘Trouble in Paradise’ opened on 22nd May 2021 at the Polish Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale, Sestiere Castello, 30122, Venice, Italy and is available to view online here.

To find out more about Rural Office, visit their website here.