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Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland

Contemporary Nordic Architecture: Critical Studies

Instructor: Peter MacKeith
Location: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland   
Dates Abroad: May 30- June 27, 2014

This traveling seminar will examine the current vigor of architecture practice in the Nordic countries – Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland – 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. Time permitting, the larger Nordic-Baltic context will also be assessed.

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: Studio Granda in Iceland; 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 instructor presentations and researched student presentations. Weekly 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. 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, week-long residencies in each of the Nordic capitals and their environs, in the following order: Helsinki and Finland, Stockholm and Sweden, Oslo and Norway, Copenhagen and Denmark. The total four-week seminar is not simply a tour of landscapes, cities and buildings, but includes a set of office visits, factory visits and interviews with architects under study in the seminar.


Peter MacKeith is Professor of Architecture, and Adjunct Associate Curator of Architecture and Design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis. He served as Associate Dean of the Sam Fox School from its inauguration in 2006 until June, 2013.

As Professor of Architecture, Peter instructs advanced design studios, and leads lecture and seminar courses architectural history and theory in both the undergraduate and graduate curricula. Peter's field of research and publication is the architecture of the Nordic region. He was Curator for the Nordic Pavilion architecture exhibition at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale and has taught, lectured and published widely on Nordic architecture for over 25 years. Peter is Honorary Consul for Finland in the state of Missouri since 2012 and was honored for his work on Finnish architecture by the recognition of Knight, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland in February, 2014.

As Adjunct Associate Curator for the Kemper Art Museum of the School since 2009, Peter has initiated and curated two significant exhibitions in architecture and design, Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future and Design with the Other 90%: Cities. As Associate Dean of the Sam Fox School, Peter oversaw public programs and information technologies for the School, among other duties, directed graduate architecture admissions for Architecture, and led or participated in numerous committees for the School and the University, notably the University Fulbright Committee.

See the Studio Proposal