Like Archinect on Facebook.
Sign up to our mailing list.
I have done my BA degree in the UK and I am thinking about applying for the Master's in Denmark, next year. Basically, there are 2 options:
- Royal Danish Academy of Arts, Copenhagen
- Aarhus School of Architecture
I have been looking at their websites, trying to get some information about the programmes and they both look quite good. It would be great though to get some more first-hand info from anyone who has studied/been there.
Any information much appreciated. Thanks!
I studied in department 11 for masters from 2009-2011. You can read my student blog on archinect (should be connected to my name) or you can check out the posts on my website.
Copenhagen Plus or Minus
Thanks for the links, Stephanie. I have gone through your website and the blog and it sounds that you were not too satisfied with your studies there. I'm a bit disappointed to hear that.
Also, when I look at the Karch website, it says department 11 is Industrial Design in Architectural Context. I thought that the course that gives you the title 'Architect' is only 'Architecture in an Urban Context' (department 2, I think). So it seems this is not the case? But it looks that the course you did doesn't have a very 'architectural' focus (in terms of designing buildings). At first I thought that was only because you chose to focus on landscape design.
I wonder then if the other department is any different, and possibly any better. In some of the other graduate portfolios that I have seen (probably from department 2), I liked the standard of work; even though I have also seen some portfolios that looked really conceptual (a bit too much for my taste). But ah, I guess the stuff about how they run the school applies in any case, and it doesn't sound too good (considering the reputation of the school).
I wonder if that's any different in Aarhus, because I've heard some very good reviews from their students; but then again, they were Danish so I don't really know how to judge it. But at least they seem to have many more internationals there (and many more students overall). It's all quite confusing anyway (making choices = always the hard part). But thanks for the site;' if you can explain me that thing about the departments, it will be great.
I study at Aarhus School of Architecture.I can definitely recommend it. These years it has really changed a lot, and has more international and know around the world.
In Denmark we have putted our school into categories.
Copenhagen = formalistic
Aarhus = more intelligent thoughs putted in to it.
Aalborg = engineering
They have changed the name of dept. 11 to industrial design, because initially it was 'design in an architectural context.' However I checked the projects and they are the same ones I went through.
You still get the title of architect when you graduate, seems strange considering you take only one 'structure' course in the master's degree and it is mainly focused on disassembling toy cars and making chess pieces out of candy while tweeting about light. (yes... really...)
My boyfriend studied in Department 2 and he was possibly even more dissatisfied with his program than I was. In neither of the departments is there a focus on actual structures or form; dept. 2 is partially run by someone from the Bartlett and they do a lot of workshops on how to make plastic zip ties twitch using arduino or how to make blankets that move when you touch them. Hoo hah, yawn, yes, you're very smart.... He was laughed at for trying to do projects with social and environmental meaning, or trying to learn about how things would actually be built.
I have good friends (Danish) who studied at Aarhus, they like it very much but I didn't know if they had a real dedicated English masters or rather if they just accept some international students and try to get the Danish students to translate things for them. You might want to check up on that first.
Wish I had better news about the K.A.... sorry!
Well, thanks for the info anyway! it's good to get an idea about the school before I waste my time applying. I guess I will reconsider it now. If it's connected to Barlett, then I wouldn't be surprised if it's really conceptual (floating in the clouds) but this stuff about 'smart' technologies sounds pretty ridiculous to me, even in that field. I am interested in the conceptual (philosophical) side of architecture and architectural histories & theories a lot (more than the construction part I think) but this high-tech stuff seems not to have much in common with that either.
I guess one thing is to learn valuable theories and critical thinking and another to dedicate your time to strange experimentation with 'alternative' vaguely architectural techniques (at least that's the idea I get). I'd consider applying to KA rather than Aarhus mostly because of the reputation but now I start to think that probably it's not really worth it (I think you also wrote on your blog that you think it doesn't matter that much which uni you graduate from). I'm not sure what they think about Aarhus outside of Denmark, though.
Could you please tell me more about the structure of the course at the MA level - I mean what kind of units/subjects do you have? Because I have heard that they don't have any lectures there, it's mostly based on design studios and also little about construction. Is this true? Do you actually get a lot of time with and feedback from your studio tutors? Are they good / practicing architects?
Also, can you tell me how many students are there in the year and how many internationals (roughly)? How many people are there per studio? Sorry about all these questions, but I don't have many other sources to get a first-hand info from so it's much appreciated. Thanks a lot!
I really do think that you can make the most of any education - you pretty much have to because there are very few programs out there that really give you a good base for practice.
When you start asking real questions about the program you get answers like 'it's better to have design studios, you will learn structure on the job etc etc etc.' Which is basically the same line that's been fed to architecture students for a long time. As if it is physically impossible to teach design, method, process, structure and construction at the same time. Apparently 57% unemployment amongst architects in Denmark would like to argue otherwise though - I doubt anyone is getting much construction experience these days.
One positive thing I can say for the Danish system is that if you are really, really self-motivated and ready to acknowledge that you will not get any guidance from the school in any way, you can have the freedom to take your projects in whatever direction you like. So as long as you are prepared for that from the get-go, I don't think it would be such a bad experience.
Best of luck!
It's true that the master is based on studios. It's a new concept they introduced a couple years ago. The thing about Aarhus School of Architecture, on the bachelor level too, is you will be introduced to different aspects of architecture, from large scale to small scale. The idea with the studios is that you can choose what scale you like to work with one semester, and the next semester you can choose another. I think it works very well, and it makes you a well all-around architect.
You can read about this semester studios here:
In Copenhagen you have to choose what kind of architect you like to be, maybe an urban planer, after two weeks of school on your first year, and you will do that for next 5 years unless you change your mind.
This may be a little late for your consideration, but I created an archinect account specifically to comment in this thread, as a current Masters student in department 2 at KADK.
I will try and tell it as I see it.
KADK is divided into around ten different departments, each of which has their own take on architecture and architectural education. Your experience will vary greatly between these departments. I think it is unfair, not to mention untrue that things like structure, construction, or the social integration of buildings are not considered. Department 3, for example, has a huge emphasis on the latter and starts the masters program with a tour of Danish social housing projects from the 50s and 60s. Other departments, such as 'transformations' (it doesn't translate particularly well from Danish, I believe) specialise in the refurbishment and conversion of old buildings. Because of this, construction details and structures etc are all integrated into the program. At the other end of the scale, Department 6 takes a more intellectual and abstract view of process, producing work that might not be buildable in real life... think Peter Eisenman and his drawings and models.
In any case, all this is going to change in fall 2014 - the school is being restructured into a more conventional model, sans the departments and everything. As I understand it, the details of this are still being sketched out but it may well change things for you if you are considering applying this year.
I am in Department 2, and I think it is unfair to dismiss it as "making zip ties twitch". Yes, one of our tutors used to head a unit at the Bartlett and his research interests are tied up in digital fabrication - he is part of a unit at the school called CITA (http://cita.karch.dk/) which is really doing some pretty cool stuff at the more experimental end of the scale. His current research, I believe, is to do with inflated metal structures. Crazy stuff, but very cool.
In Department 2, more or less anything goes, and we have a huge range of work being produced in the studio. The emphasis is on self-directed study, and you need to be motivated and disciplined to see your project through, because you are not given a brief - it's all of your own making. In my mind this is an advantage because you exit school with a portfolio that reflects your own interests rather than those of a tutor. That said if you are not good at organising yourself or your time, maybe you're better off picking somewhere else, because things are pretty free rein here - it really is what you make of it.
The department is based around fieldwork, and each year we take two weeks to go to a city on a research trip. This year, it was Berlin. We have people doing experiments with climate-controlling architecture, configurations of revolving stages, drawing instruments, a boat club, Berlin as a series of memories (of cities) and buildings that can be disassembled and reassembled from component parts. Personally, I am working on an urban-scale proposal that attempts to integrate architectural autonomy within the finer grain of disused spaces of Berlin. Watch this space. Yes, there is some emphasis on structure, should you desire it. Two of the tutors are practicing architects and certainly give feedback on that front. But to say people are being "laughed out" because they are producing projects with social or environmental meaning is simply untrue. The standard of work in studio is generally high and the teachers are very committed... I would say I get 2-3 hours of desk time a week with my tutor, and he's always willing to respond to emails or text messages, should I need more assistance. I certainly get a lot of guidance from all the tutors in our department, and we have great dialogue with students both above and below.
The studio culture is great as well, and probably par for the course in most architecture schools, people work late into the night and on weekends, etc. It's 11.40pm here at the moment and I still have a few more things to do before sleep. As an aside, it's also refreshingly free from some of the manifest destiny types that I encountered studying in the US, and despite a very competitive entry this year, the general vibe is super friendly amongst everyone in studio.
The technical side of things is probably lacking in terms of stuff you can carry directly to an office, but I had a fairly technical undergrad degree, so I have a decent understanding of how structures work (essential in New Zealand with all our Earthquakes) and of how to detail, though I expect I will have to re-learn all these things again when I graduate. We have a technology course which involves the writing of a detailed report, a technology workshop which is more centred around making and material experiments, and some workshops with the CITA guys. For the technology course we had engineers in from Buro Happold and Henning Larsen, amongst others, as tutors. You might not get an engineering course, but in terms of Frei Otto-type experimental stuff, there is a lot of potential.
I personally really like Copenhagen as a city to live in. I live in a neighbourhood called Norrebro, which is a nice mix of cultures and demographics, from turkish greengrocers, yuppie couples, students, and combinations of all the above. Copenhagen isn't as expensive as I thought it would be - I pay 3000 kr a month for my room, which I believe converts to around 300 Sterling. Costs per month might be double that including food, materials, and a bit of cash to go and see a movie or an art exhibition every now and then. There are some things that I miss about home that I have had to leave behind - Copenhagen doesn't have a culture of eating out or cafes like Wellington does, and I think i've only had around two coffees made outside of my kitchen in the last six months. Eating out is prohibitively expensive, and quite simply, I can't afford it. On top of that, the winter really really sucks - it's cold, dark and pretty grim most of the time. However there are a lot of good things and events that are free in Copenhagen. When I arrived in summer there were outdoor cinema nights in several of the big parks, organised cultural events, free music festivals... so it makes up for not being able to get takeaways. I really miss asian food though.
In general Copenhagen is far more culturally homogenous and in some ways, far more culturally conservative than home, but as I understand it, this is the norm for most northern European cities outside maybe Berlin. Sure some of the things Danes do I find very weird, but I try and view it as all part of the experience of living within another culture. Danes themselves are initially shy and cold, and you do have to make an effort to get to know them. But if you're willing to take the first step and extend yourself a bit, you won't have any trouble meeting the locals. After six months I can say I have some great scandinavian friends both in and out of school.
All in all I am pleased with my choice to move here. Study in the UK and US was prohibitively expensive, and I thought Australia would be too similar to home. I think if you're willing to put the effort and focus in, you can get as good an education as anywhere else. The resources, facilities and expertise are all here.
Hope that helps, any questions, i'm more than happy to answer.
Thanks a lot for the very informative report! It is really helpful and still relevant (the Copenhagen deadline is in a month's time).
I am a bit confused about the departments now - on their website it shows ONLY 2. 3 and 11 and says that you have to choose one - that will be your specialization. Dep. 2 (Architecture in Urban Context) seems to be the closest to architecture per se.
So once I apply for department 2 - How is it with the other departments you mentioned (e.g. 6) - can I choose to do projects there? Or is this a different classification, within the 'Architecture in Urban Context' course? Or do I have to specialize in the kind of stuff CITA does, once I am registered department 2?
My main interest lies elsewhere, I believe, so I'm really interested to understand this.
Thanks a lot!
great post henry...you could sell ice to an eskimo.
Yes - at this stage only 2, 3 and 11 offer an english masters program. I would steer clear of 11 based on what I have heard about it from various students at school. That said, should you attend KADK, things will shift in your final year and you may be able to take courses from any department, so take that as a bit of a caveat or potentially a bonus depending on how you see things.
I don't really follow the next part of your question - as I mentioned in my previous post, you can do more or less whatever you like in Dept. 2. There is a big emphasis on fieldwork, process, experimentation, and making... but you can basically follow your nose if your project is strong enough and you can defend it. You don't have to do CITA stuff per se, but we do have these week-long workshops with CITA once a semester which act as an intense period of working on a single topic, and I find it to be a nice holiday from studio and a chance to learn about something totally new and generally to get busy making some cool stuff. Right at the moment, for example, we are doing a workshop on inflatable/pneumatic structures, with a full-scale installation that needs to be up in t-minus 4 days...
Department 3, as I understand it, is far more conventional and you end up producing one resolved, real-life building per semester in studio, as opposed to more speculative, radical projects. This is only my understanding though.
You can have a look at various department work here on issuu - http://issuu.com/karch1 - though it is a pretty tiny snapshot of what actually goes on here.
Honestly though - I think your best bet is just to apply, see how you go, and take it from there. It's not like you have to pay a deposit or anything, and as an EU citizen you have nothing to lose. If you make it in, come out to Copenhagen and have a look around the school and the city for a few days, see what you think, and then make a call. The international office here are a bit rubbish and I wouldn't rely on them for much. If you have more specific questions, they're probably best directed to the secretaries of the various departments you might apply for.... I would imagine you can find that info on the webpage.
I will say though, that there are a lot of people in Dept. 2 from the UK in your situation (escaping high fees) so this path has been trod successfully before.