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    A Basic Guide to the Danish Architect(ural Technologist)

    By Katiel
    Jul 17, '19 6:42 AM EST

    Please note that all opinions expressed are my own, and are based only my anecdotal experiences. This is simply an attempt to decode the Danish system for those unfamiliar with it and considering studying or working in Denmark.

    In the USA, a licensed architect will both design and ensure that construction is up to code. In Denmark, usually only architects design the schematic or concept stage, and then architectural technologists handle the developed design and onwards. 

    This is, of course, by no means a hard and fast rule. Architects become project managers and often assist with a large project into its construction phase. However I have found the majority, especially newer architects work solely in concept and competition design. So for all intents and purposes, I consider the architecture profession in Denmark split into Architects and Architectural Technologists.


    When I studied in architecture school briefly in the US, there were furniture design electives, and courses on structural engineering and architectural history, but also the option to take other university courses. Getting in required SAT scores, a common application, and submitting a portfolio. Some schools required interviews, others required a portfolio feedback session. But typically it was a two step process for the main application.

    KADK, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts is one of two schools that offer architecture studies in Denmark. I am focusing on them, because most of the architect graduates I know come from this school.

    They have unlisted ‘cross-disciplinary’ courses each semester for their bachelor program in addition to the main studio course. Many of these courses are pass/fail and offer no external censors. Each semester is categorized as ‘architecture and material’, ‘architecture and aesthetic’. The education guide says things like  “Module 1 and 5 prioritize teaching methods that integrate science, specific skills and competencies”. It is mainly an art-based program.

    While becoming licensed in the US requires an accredited M.arch or 5-year B.arch degree plus internship and passed licensing exams, being licensed in Denmark typically means just completing the masters portion in architecture from one of the two art academies, or having a masters in architecture from a foreign institution.

    To get into KADK at a bachelor level is a difficult and equally long process. You send an application in through the portal system with all your educational background information that qualifies you and a portfolio. Then you have to send a ‘homework assignment’ with a prompt that involves sketching something or making a model out of paper that represents something.

    If they like your interpretation of the homework assignment, they will invite you back to an entrance exam. The entrance exam consists of you sitting in a room, making models or drawings that is an interpretation of a text or something in front of you like the room itself. Then the examiners go person by person and question them on their work. They’re looking for a specific KADK-approved answer. This is a weekend-long examination. One of my architect friends mentioned he took a special summer course, offered by the school for a decent amount of money, where they prep you specifically for this entrance exam.

    Then two weeks later you get your exam score. After a month more of waiting, you either get invited to the prestigious school, or rejected. The whole process lasts three-to-four months. This exclusive bachelors program is only offered in Danish, not in English. About 25% of students admitted come from Sweden or Norway, as native fluency in a Scandinavian language fulfills the Danish language entrance requirements.

    Their more specialized masters programs are offered in both Danish and English where you can take a track like ‘spatial design’ or ‘architecture and the extreme environment’ and are a lot easier to get into than the bachelor’s program. Upon completion of the masters program, you can claim the title Arkitekt MAA, which is a protected title. If you have a Danish bachelor’s degree from anywhere but the Arhus School of Architecture or KADK, you will not be allowed to study either their bachelor or masters program.

    The lack of programs and the extreme focus on conformity for entrance means that a Danish-educated architect will have a very specific skillset and perspective, whereas in the US your viewpoint is typically molded by the program culture of the specific school. MIT’s architecture program is not the same as Pratts. 

    Architectural Technology/Bygningskonstruktion

    The other half of the architecture industry are architectural technologists, who hold a bachelor degree in Architectural Technology and Construction Management (or Bygningskonstruktion). You cannot get this bachelor degree in the two architecture schools. You have to take it at a University College, or Erhvervsakdemi. It is important to note- this will not allow you to become a licensed architect in Denmark. But you can become a ‘Bygningskonstruktør MAK’, the protected title, without needing a masters degree. This study is not design based. Students work with BIM, Revit, project management and construction management to detail a building each semester through developed design to construction phase. The exams are focused on the quality of construction detail drawings, and the semesters have focuses from renovation to multistory buildings. The admissions rate is relatively high if you fulfil the grade requirements.

     If you don’t have the best grades from high school, you can apply using experience as, for example an electrician, plumber, mason, or carpenter. As a result, many tradesmen are often a part of each class. This really enriches the quality of the study.

    Students are not taught design, since that is the role of architects. However, many schools offer a design elective to help teach a basic level of conceptualization. Unfortunately, many technologists are completely uninterested in architecture culture and sometimes are dismissive of architects, especially when balancing budget and time plans. This can sometimes lead to friction in an architecture office setting between the two professions.  

    If you want to further your education as a technologist with a masters program, you can usually take a construction management master at a university but fewer and fewer masters options exist in Denmark with this degree. Other European schools will potentially accept this bachelor degree and allow you to continue your studies if you wish, but it is more of a case-by-case situation depending on the school and program you want to pursue.

    Because of the clear divide in educations, attempting to cross the barrier professionally can be difficult. 

    However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Danish architects have long collaborated well with other professions. By respecting other professions expertise and knowledge, as well as an ingrained culture of group work, the level of craftsmanship and innovation is very high. Danish design would likely not achieve world fame without this deep historical and cultural level of coordination. 



      This is the same elsewhere in Europe too.

      Nov 24, 19 2:40 am  · 

      The cost to become an architect in the USA will be about $15,000 to more than $60,000 a year. Depending on if you attended public or private school. It includes books and tuition.

      Mar 17, 20 9:08 am  · 

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  • A Basic Guide to the Danish Architect(ural Technologist)
    Jul 17 '19