Drums and a trip to Greece
Even though Karl Christiansen can soon call himself professor emeritus, an academic career was not always in the cards. He, on the contrary, had a more practical approach to things. And he certainly did not follow the traditional path to the architectural profession:
‘I haven’t passed a lower secondary school leaving examination, nor have I taken my A-levels. After the ninth grade, I took the technical leaving exam, which gave access to training as a technical assistant. Later on I completed the first part of the constructing engineer programme,’ Karl Christiansen explains.
But while Karl was studying on the building technical programme, others things took up most of his time: Karl Christiansen was a drummer in the rock band OZON, which was a supporting act for bands like Gasolin and Shu-bi-dua. And the drums would eventually play a crucial role in Karl Christiansen becoming an architect:
‘When I started studying at Aarhus School of Architecture, it realised I would have to stop playing music to focus fully on architecture. I was admitted to the department dedicated to the art of building headed by Yannos Politis. And when we were about to go on a study trip to in Greece, I sold my drums to be able to do the trip’, says Karl Christiansen, who, while he was studying at the school was living in Studsgade, right next to the school, and was therefore able to completely immerse himself in what he describes as the exuberant environment around the school.
After completing his training at the school in 1981, Karl Christiansen travelled to Norway, where he worked in the practices Lund and Slaatto as well as for LPO Arkitektkontor. For a period, he was even chairman of Oslo’s architects’ association. After spending a few years in Norway, Karl Christiansen was visiting Denmark, driving around the country on a motorbike.
‘While I was doing the motorbike trip, a temporary position was advertised at Aarhus School of Architecture. And I ended up doing the job interview all clad in leather’, says Karl Christiansen, who got the temporary position, which would later develop into an assistant professorship.
‘When I moved back to Denmark, I had almost nothing bedsides a bed in my apartment. so I spent all my time at the school. I was completely high on architecture at the time’.
Back in the day when Karl Christiansen showed up for a job interview, the school’s current Rector Torben Nielsen was part of the committee that decided to employ the future professor emeritus. And Torben greatly appreciates the contribution Karl Christiansen has made at the school over the past almost 30 years.
‘Karl has always been focused and serious about his professional efforts and the messages he wants to communicate. It has particularly been the concepts of tectonics and the arts that have been an important part of Karl’s teaching and research. His focus has been on the need for some kind of honesty or purity that is produced through tectonics and the arts. Karl has never let us forget that architecture is art, and that this is what justifies architecture. But not as an abstraction or a pipe-dream. Rather as a specific construction or material belonging to architecture. Karl has enriched our students with inspirational lectures in which both goldfish and bricks thrown through a space have played a part. All to emphasise the points of tectonics’, says Torben Nielsen.