Interview with (former) Principal Peter Kjær, Umeå School of Architecture
In September 2010, a new school of architecture opened in Sweden. The school will form part of the new Arts Campus at Umeå University, which will also comprise the new Academy of Fine Arts and the new Art Museum – both designed by Henning Larsen Architects in collaboration with White Architects. The school is the fourth of its kind in Sweden but the first one that will have an independent, artistic profile with a focus on sustainability and international relations.
Umeå School of Architecture has a dynamic layout with displaced, open levels. How does this influence the teaching?
The building design meets our view on architecture – that architecture is a way of looking at the world, a way of opening up the world. That’s what makes architecture art. The concept of open architecture is in itself a separate discipline – and has a lot to do with the architectural programme and the preparation of this. Through its vertical, spatial connections, the building offers a unique opportunity to influence the students’ ability to understand, develop and work with spatial complexity.
How has the building been received by students and teachers?
A building with so many open spaces that it basically appears as one space is at the same time a real inspiration and provocation. And this is also how it has been received by the teachers and students. The spatial layout is undoubtedly the most significant architectural quality of the building. But it also poses a number of yet unsolved questions – that is, the relationship between joint and individual activities, problems with acoustic regulation, fewer separate classrooms etc. It is a question of getting used to a new open and dynamic structure. As a whole, the building provides a fantastic framework, which will gradually be adapted to our use and culture.
What is the most significant difference between Umeå School of Architecture and other schools of architecture? How great an influence do you believe that the physical framework will have for the architects graduating from Umeå School of Architecture?
During the last 15 years, only a few new schools of architecture have been built. What makes them special is that all facilities are consolidated under the same room. This applies to for instance Marne La Vallée in Paris and the new school in Nantes. With its cubic, complex shapes, the new Umeå School of Architecture is perhaps the most spatially advanced of them all. In addition, the school has a both beautiful and very central location; the spatial character of the building makes it open up to the surroundings and appear as an open institution inviting in the outside world. The building design has a certain extrovert character – a both distinctive and unique feature.
The open character of the building really matches the idea of an architectural education, which – on an artistic foundation, that is, the ability to create architectural spaces – will develop to become a laboratory of architecture. Even though the building provides too few seminar rooms and research offices, its physical framework offers us the opportunity to meet our goals. We will probably develop the vertical openness of the building to become of a higher quality, which will be reflected in our organisation and working methods.
architects: Henning Larsen Architects; project area: 5,000 sqm; project year: 2007 – 2010
text and drawings: http://www.henninglarsen.com/