Life in the studio

Team spirit and knowledge sharing - the studio as the focal point of architectural education

As a student of architecture at Aarhus School of Architecture much of your time is spent in the school’s studios.

Our education is project-based, and in the studios students are supervised at their drafting tables. This means feedback is an integral part of everyday life. It also creates close collaboration between teachers and students and among students.

Feedback and an excellent academic environment

In the spring of 2017, the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science published the online guidance tool Uddannelseszoom; a tool based on a student satisfaction survey carried out at all Danish institutions of higher education.

According to the survey, Aarhus School of Architecture, like the other artistic educational institutions, was evaluated very positively on teachers’ use of feedback and the academic environment.

More about the survey

 

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Associate Professor Mads Tholstrup supervising Lasse Nielsen

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Helya Ahmadi at her drafting table

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Associate Professor Niels Nygaard during a desk crit

Life in the studio

The survey shows that 88% of the participants from Aarhus School of Architecture feel that the teachers are committed to teaching and that 79% agree that the school has a good academic environment.

Lasse Nielsen and Helya Ahmadi are first-year students at Aarhus School of Architecture. They are not surprised by the results. They are satisfied with student life in the studios and with the way they work together with the teachers:

“The atmosphere in the studio is great: in the studios we are all nerds! We are not competitors but often work together in groups, sharing our knowledge. We take a genuine interest in the projects of the other students. And the teachers are truly dedicated to architecture,” says Lasse. Helya elaborates:

“Our teachers ask more questions than they give answers. The critiques are actually mostly discussions about how our projects can be improved. This helps shape us as architects. In the course of our studies we develop as individuals; instead of just telling us the correct solution the teachers help us develop. In the Danish upper secondary school you analyse what other people have produced, here we analyse our own work.”

Supervision is the most important task

The figures from the survey show that 75% believe that teachers at Aarhus School of Architecture are good at providing useful feedback.

It is specifically the dialogue between students and teachers which is a core element of the education offered in Aarhus. Associate Professor Nygaard Nygaard says he sees desk crits as his most important task:

“This is where you step in as a professional. It is also where there is most at stake. You don’t say whether you like a project, and you don’t take stock of the quality of a project.

Most of our students are really disciplined, and if we give them a meaningful framework, they work very independently. To the students, the most important motivation is to feel that they are actually capable of doing something.”

 

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First-year students construct a panopticon

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A quite moment in the studio

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A critique in the studio

From 9.00 a.m. to midnight

The school has a good social environment! At least according to 91% of the participants in the survey. Also, 77% of the respondents believe the social environment increases their motivation to study.

Lasse and Helya’s experience of the social and academic environment at Aarhus School of Architecture confirms these figures. Helya says that although the studio is a place where you work, most students make themselves feel at home with green plants and other decorations. Lasse adds: “I typically work here from 9.00 in the morning until midnight. However, spending so much time in the studio makes sense to me because I’m very dedicated to my studies. I fell kind of ‘down’ when the weekend comes round, and I look forward to coming back Monday morning.”

Niels Nygaard also sees the studio as the place around which the education revolves, because work life in the studios mimics the way professionals work. He sees the studio as a social learning environment where students do not receive knowledge passively. On the contrary, his experience is that the students share their thoughts on a given project.

 

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Associate Professor Andriette Ahrenkiel supervising in the studio

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Head of Education Rasmus Grønbæk Hansen

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Intense concentration

The importance of the studio in the education

Head of Education Rasmus Grønbæk Hansen thinks a key factor why students give positive feedback on the school’s academic and social environment is that they are able to share ideas, challenges and skills in the studio:

“The studio-based teaching the school practises offers several qualities that other forms of teaching have difficulties providing. For this reason it is something we insist on preserving and developing further.

Of course doing so is costly, both in terms of facilities and teaching, as we provide each student with a personal workspace in a studio, but the outcome is remarkable.”

It is Rasmus Grønbæk Hansen’s experience that teaching in studios creates a more equal dialogue between teachers and students, as the teachers go into the studios, which are clearly spaces that belong to the students.

“The significance of the studio to the education doesn’t end when the teachers go home – on the contrary. The informal learning situation automatically arises among the students; this is the reason why – in professional and academic terms – it makes so much sense that students work in studios rather than at home”, he concludes.