In general, the academic working culture in Denmark differs from the culture of other countries by having a very flat structure. The professors do not have a monopoly on ‘academic power’. The academic and professional dialogue, on the other hand, takes up much space. And there is a great deal of professional respect also across academic ranks. You are expected to think independently and are typically rewarded for having your own ideas and reflections rather than applying the thoughts of a professor. The social aspect is also important in Danish academic workplaces. You typically see open office doors. And there is a tradition of informal chats when you meet in the hallways.
Aarhus School of Architecture is a small independent school. This means the lines of decision making are short. There may, therefore, be a short way from idea to implementation. Much of the school’s work is done in teams. You develop teaching and teach in collaboration with professional colleagues. You will also need to be able to enter into a dialogue and often also work together with others on your research. All teachers are therefore affiliated with a teaching team. If you research, you are also affiliated with a research lab.
The form of teaching
The form of teaching is based on problem-oriented project work and primarily takes place in studios. Here students work daily and receive supervision – individually and in groups. This means that from day one teaching is characterised by a dialogue-based culture where the students, through group crits, and together with the teachers at desk crits, learn to relate to each other’s projects in a critical, inquiring and reflective way. The students’ ability to argue for the solutions they have chosen is constantly challenged.
Project work is based on openly formulated architectural problems that relate to society around us. For students, project work is carried out in dialogue with teachers and fellow students. This work requires students to be present in studies on a daily basis. Students work both in groups and on their own. Project work typically alternates between collective preliminary studies and analyses followed by individual project development.
Exercises and assignments develop the students’ abilities to read and analyse – understand and contextualise an issue. But also to prioritise, make choices and synthesise this into a solution. Apart from this, the students’ abilities to work with others and participate in innovative, interdisciplinary collaborative projects are being trained. The project work is supported by lecture series, basic courses and optional courses comprising teaching and studies within knowledge and tool disciplines.
Crits are held at the end of a project or mid-way during longer courses. The students present their projects to a panel of critics. For the final crits, the panel typically consists of one or more supervisors and a visiting critic. The panel discusses and assesses the outcome of the project and the work process based on the objectives that were formulated, the submitted project material, and the oral presentation. The students of the unit of study are present at crits and are encouraged to participate in discussions. The crit is an important element in academic discussions and the development of the study unit.
On the first day of term, students are assigned individual workplaces in a studio within a unit of study. The studio of a study unit is the primary place of studies and is where students work on a daily basis. It is also where academic development and exchange take place. The studio is the dynamic setting which provides the impulse, energy and inspiration to study. This is where a constructive environment is established, which is based both in a professional and a social community. Reading groups and discussion groups set up by the students themselves are rooted in the studio environment and complement the study well.
All members of the school’s academic staff may act as supervisors for the students. They are occasionally supplemented by guest teachers from other schools of architecture or from architectural offices. Supervision may be individual and typically takes the form of desk crits. But supervision may also be collective and involve smaller groups or study units. Supervision comprises discussions of ideas, studies, sketches, etc. between the students and a teacher.