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Nordic Countries - Spring 2015

Contemporary Nordic Architecture: Critical Studies

Instructror: Peter MacKeith
Location: Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
Dates Abroad: May 31 (Sunday) – June 21 (Saturday), 2015

This traveling field trip seminar will examine the vigor of modern and contemporary architecture practice in the Nordic countries – Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark – through focused studies on the legacy of 20th century Nordic architecture and design, significant and emerging contemporary architects, built and projected works, and historical and theoretical frameworks. 

Beginning with lecture overviews of the significant 20th century architects and works that conventionally characterize the Nordic architectural reputation – Aalto and Pietilä in Finland, Asplund and Lewerentz in Sweden, Jacobson and Utzon in Denmark, Korsmo and Fehn in Norway, among others – the seminar will address the late 20th century legacy of these architects, and move rapidly to survey and assess the succeeding generation before turning directly to the architects and works of the last 20 years. 

Contemporary studio-based practices and larger professional firms will be highlighted: Snohetta, Jarmund/Vigsnaes, and Jensen/Skodvin in Norway; BIG, Lundgaard & Tranberg and Gehl Urban Design Consultants in Denmark; Johan Celsing, Gert Windgardh, and Tham & Videgard in Sweden; and Lahdelma/Mahalmaki, JKMM, and ALA in Finland, among many practices, will be assessed. An emphasis will be placed on identifying both established practices as well as an emerging younger generation.

Issues of regionalism, urban design, housing design, public building, tectonics and materials, environmental design and sustainability, social responsibility and national representation will all serve as thematic filters for ongoing discussion and evaluation.
The course is structured around a sequence of on-site instructor presentations and researched student presentations, as well as interviews, building analyses, and constant discussions. Preliminary and preparatory assignments and presentations are required, achieved through both individual and small group work. Weekly readings supplement the course meetings and serve as the basis for deeper seminar discussions. Readings will be provided electronically, or handed out in hardcopy in class. Students are asked to maintain a course sketchbook and diary on a daily basis. A final project asks students to research, write and give an oral/visual summary of a research proposal for an imagined year-long project in one of the Nordic nations.

The course is sequenced through four, five-day residencies in each of the Nordic capitals and their environs, in the following order (or in the reverse, based on travel logistics): Helsinki and Finland, Stockholm and Sweden, Oslo and Norway, Copenhagen and Denmark. The total 21-day seminar is more than a tour of landscapes, cities and buildings, but includes a set of office visits, factory visits and interviews with contemporary architects under study in the seminar.

More Information on this travel course

Slide Presentation