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Huussi was received with great enthusiasm at the Biennale Architettura in Venice

A crowd in front of a small blue pavilion. Finnish flag hoisted.

Miina Jutila

During the first week of opening, the exhibition in the Pavilion of Finland has already been seen by more than 15 000 visitors and more than fifty media outlets have already included it in their news, articles and top lists.

The Dry Collective's exhibition Huussi – Imagining the future history of sanitation explores the role of architects in solving the problems caused by climate change and human activity, and declares the end of the era of our current water-toilet-based sanitation system.

Click here to read more about the Huussi exhibition.

The 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia opened to the public on Saturday 20 May. Before the public opening, the Biennale was presented to the media on Wednesday 17 May, and the pre-opening days for invited guests were held on Thursday and Friday. The Huussi exhibition generated lively discussion and enthusiastic feedback during the opening week.

The official opening of the Finnish Pavilion took place on Thursday 18 May. After the acknowledgements expressed byKatarina Siltavuori, Commissioner of the exhibition and Director of Archinfo, the exhibition was opened by Ambassador Pia Rantala-Engberg. Representing the owner of the Pavilion, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she highlighted the importance of Alvar Aalto's legacy and spoke of how architects can play a crucial role in finding fresh and innovative ideas to resolve the problems at hand.

The greetings of the exhibition's main sponsor, the Ministry of Education and Culture, were presented by Director General Riitta Kaivosoja. She believes that the Huussi exhibition is excellent example of how something familiar can turn into something bold when placed into a different context. She praised the exhibition's curator, architect-artist Arja Renell, for sparking conversation and promoting cross-sectoral cooperation between science and architecture. Kaivosoja is a great architecture enthusiast, and for her, the exhibition’s human dimension – or warmth even – is part of what makes Finland’s architecture special.

Curator Arja Renell explained how the idea for the exhibition was born a year ago in the toilet queue at the opening of the Art Biennale, when she heard that Giardini's sewage was being discharged directly into the canal. In her speech, she talked about the themes of the exhibition, water conservation and nutrient recycling, and asked, why on earth are we wasting the one free, ecological, sustainably produced, inexhaustible and democratically distributed resource of fertilisers?

Paula Pennanen-Rebeiro-Hargrave, UN-Habitat's Human Settlement Officer who also gave her expert knowledge for the exhibition, brought the invited guests a message from the Global South and highlighted the importance of talking about a critical area of our luxurious lifestyle that is not often discussed. According to her, the UN need champions for making the bold transitions towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The challenge of change is that we first have to agree to change – and then we actually have to change, and that’s the hard part.

Huussi tiimiläiset + Ben ja Hanna
The opening was preceded by a press conference in which Ben James (centre) had a conversation with Chief Design Officer Hanna Harris and Curator Arja Renell, surrounded in the photo by members of The Dry Collective, (from left) Eero Renell, Emmi Keskisarja, Barbara Motta and Antero Jokinen. photo: Archinfo

In addition to curator Arja Renell, The Dry Collective includes visual designer and storyteller Antero Jokinen, architects Emmi Keskisarja, Eero Renell and Janne Teräsvirta, and architect Barbara Motta from Italy.

The opening was preceded by a press conference which included a conversation on urban sanitation solutions between the exhibition curator andHanna Harris, Chief Design Officer of the City of Helsinki, and led by Ben James of ING Media. Watch the discussion recording below.

The Huussi exhibition has attracted a lot of interest in the national and international media. For example, Finland’s leading daily, Helsingin Sanomat, published a three-page article about it, and the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle made Huussi content available on several of its channels, including a live radio interview with curator Arja Renell.

Arja Ylen haastattelussa
Arja Renell in a live telephone interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle. photos: Miina Jutila

Huussi has also been in the news around the world, with mentions in publications such as ArchDaily, Wallpaper, Dezeen, Domus, The Guardian, The Korea TimesHolzBau and The New York Times, the Twitter account of which, @NYT_first_said highlights all the words that appeared in the publication for the first time – and now, huussi is one of them. Arja Renell was also interviewed by Monocle's The Urbanist radio programme. Listen to the podcast here.

In conjunction with the exhibition opening, the accompanying publication, Death to the flushing toilet, was launched. In the book edited by Arja Renell, thirteen expert articles dive deeper into the exhibition’s themes, such as the world history of sanitation, the Venetian sanitation system, the Great Stink of London and the huussi as part of the Finnish cultural heritage. Specialist of different fields write about recycling nutrients, urban sanitation solutions and examples such as the Helsinki Huussi. The book is distributed by the leading Nordic publisher specialised in architecture and art, Arvinius + Orfeus Publishing.

Huussi-katalogi huussissa
Publisher Marie Arvinius, editor Arja Renell and subeditor Miina Jutila marveling the book fresh out of the printer's. photo: Linda Peltola