Last week was a jumble of tacky glue, Exacto knives, and late nights with leftover pizza. It was my first week in studio, and it felt like a TV show.
We, the AD (Architecture & Design) students, were given our first assignment – a presentation and a model, due in one week. We were split up into groups of 4-5 and assigned buildings by the AD faculty. These buildings will be our site visits during our core course week. Remember how I said I chose to go to Austria & Switzerland? My group’s building was the Beyeler Foundation in Riehen, Switzerland (near Basel). It’s a museum, notable in design not only for its roof – which uses novel panel technology to filter natural light – but also for its superb relation to its surroundings. The architect, Renzo Piano, fit the building into the topography of the land and blurred the line between interior and exterior space through a conservatory, large floor-to-ceiling windows, and a classic reflecting pool.
I made a Scribd account just so I could show you our presentation. We presented Friday, after several sleepless nights. Did you know that the Beyeler Foundation has 216 of those little roof panels? Which we supported with 432 little 1cm sticks and 72 cross beams made of cardboard.
Thank God that Dad taught me how to score and cut a straight line when I was little. I was the only student in our studio of 11 who had never modeled before. I had weird flashbacks to my senior year physics project and I asked more questions than a kindergartner, but it was okay – mostly because my team was wonderful. We rocked the group dynamic. We worked in shifts and shared rulers and made 7/11 runs for coffee when the lines started to look like curves.
Plus I live in the Arts & Culture LLC with a bunch of architecture students – we suffered and celebrated together, giving knowing nods and little quips of support when necessary.
I couldn’t help but feel it was the first project in the rest of my life. (You know that song by MXPX? It’s from a Hilary Duff movie or something, and every time I start something big & exciting & new I think of it. It’s involuntary.) ANYWAY. I came to Denmark to do academics, to live and breathe and hopefully love studio. And that week, as my LLC friends so aptly put it, was my initiation. My plunge into architecture.
So far, so good, team. We have yet to get our grade (review?) back, so maybe the Beyeler project didn’t go as well as I think it did, but for right now – I’m loving architecture and architecture loves me.
Before I forget: this article was posted to the DIS Facebook page.
Although I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to comment on the linguistic differences between Americans and Danes, I think it’s an interesting article and a good explanation of how cultural differences can impact daily life and social interactions.
I’ve found that studying abroad requires a bit of social flexibility. There are a lot of little things (like the conversation patterns mentioned in the article) that influence the abroad experience – sometimes they can be incredibly frustrating and sometimes they just create a “gap”. Dean Lancaster tells a story during pre-departure orientation that has the bottom line of: “Going out to eat in a big group is very American and usually won’t help you learn about another culture”. It’s true, and her story is just another example of how social conventions shift when abroad.
I’ll try to pay attention to Danish conversation patterns so I can comment on the article personally. Since I’m not in a home stay, I signed up for a “Visiting Family” through DIS – I get paired with a Danish family for the semester, who hopefully likes me enough to invite me to dinner and teach me a bit about Denmark.
This morning I biked to Grundtvig’s Church!
The church is about 40 minutes away from my LLC (probably less if you don’t have to stop your cycling to check a map). To get there, I left the historic central city and ventured into the suburbs of Copenhagen. Or what I think must be the suburbs. It was a very beautiful August morning in Copenhagen and I was excited about finding this church!
I found it in a book about Copenhagen – and with a little encouragement from my architecture class, I decided to check if the church is really as incredible as the photos show it to be.
And guess what!?
It totally is.
The little info pamphlet at the church says: “Grundtvig’s Church was built in memory of the priest, hymn writer and educator Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872). His significance for Denmark was so great that he simply had to have an extraordinary memorial.”
So I googled Grundtvig. Turns out, Grundtvig is responsible for molding Danish national identity – more info here. (And he got married three times? WUT?)
The church is (pamphlet quote) “a combination of a medieval rural church from Zealand with its battlements and a Gothic urban church”. The church was designed by architect Jensen Klint and completed by his son Kaare. It belongs to all of the Danish people, as funds for its construction were collected from all over the country and Danes living abroad. Grundtvig’s Church is the size of a cathedral and made out of almost five million yellow bricks.
I hadn’t read the handy pamphlet before I biked to the church. I arrived a little clueless, and I was even more intrigued after I saw the building. The church is in kind of a remote area of Copenhagen and it looks like a prison from the Lord of the Rings. If facades could be scary, this one is.
I gathered all the courage I had and entered. And I was the only one there!! I had the whole church to myself this morning. The interior of the church is gorgeous – open and airy and very serene. The use of natural colors and clean lines is calming, as is the exclusive use of yellow brick. All decoration (and there really isn’t that much) is masonry.
I poked around a bit and took some photos before biking back to the city center. It was a great morning adventure, and I hope that I can go back again before I leave Copenhagen.
It’s Day 4!
I’m over my jet lag, all moved in, and starting classes. I’m so so excited to begin academics here – I can’t wait to learn a little Danish and work in an architecture studio!
I’m taking (technically) four classes here: my Architecture core course, which is 6 credits. I’m also enrolled in 20th & 21st Century Danish Architecture, a Danish language course, and Creative Business Thinking: A Nordic Approach. Wofford is transferring both credit and class score. My core course – THIS IS SUPER EXCITING – includes a week-long study trip. I chose to go to Austria-Switzerland (over Finland-Sweden). The DIS program encourages student travel. In addition to the week-long trip with my architecture program to Austria and Switzerland, I am automatically signed up for a 3-day core course trip around Denmark and all students are given two additional 10-day periods to travel.
I’m still having trouble believing that I’m here. In Denmark. In Copenhagen. Did I tell you that the first morning I woke up here, I had no idea where I was? It’s a phenomenon that’s only happened twice in my life, but it happened in Denmark.
We’re all starting to get more familiar with the city. Settled in? Maybe not quite yet, but we’re starting to develop a rhythm. We are still figuring everything out – currently Travis, who lives in my LLC, is watching a YouTube video on how to work the darn Danish oven. In the name of efficiency and cheap college lyfe, our floor has decided to do group meals a few nights a week. Tonight is Travis & Julia’s night – they’re making some classic Minnesota bratwurst and vegetables. Connie & Kelsey made stir-fry; Anthony and I made spaghetti. We’ve oriented ourselves in the Danish grocery store – which is no small feat. (At least I could kind of read the food labels in Spain. Here, the yogurt cartons look like the milk cartons and there’s absolutely no telling the difference unless you get some kind Danish person to translate.)
I’m really loving my housing – and I’m learning a lot from my floormates! A bunch of them are The Real Deal, architecture students who actually major in architecture. Others are graphic design students, science students, or even pre-Med gender studies students (my roomie Connie).
Last night our SRA Nina made pizza with us, and she created hygge (hugh-guh) with soft music and a bunch of candles. Danish hygge, which resists translation but could be interpreted as coziness and snug-ability, is a large part of the Danish culture. The concept of hygge makes me really excited for Christmastime here in Denmark. Doesn’t a candlelit hot cocoa sound amazing?
SPEAKING of Christmas – it’s already cold here in Copenhagen. I’ve bypassed all of the summery clothes that I brought. I’m bopping around in jeans, boots, sweaters, and (very often) my coat. I’m already thankful that I’ve got rain boots with me. It has rained every day so far. Sometimes it pours, but other times it’s simply a matter of what street I’m walking on. Down this street, a little rain, turn the corner, all sunny again!
Life is good in the land of the Danes. No complaints – and so many adventures to come!
I made it.
Night has fallen in the Kingdom of Denmark. I am safe and cozy inside my Arts & Culture LLC - the Living & Learning Community that will be my home for the next four months. Located in the heart of Copenhagen, the LLC is a four-story building that houses 32 American students. An old staircase winds up through its center, linking the downstairs entrance to the upper three residential floors. I live on Floor 1 (the second story by American standards) with nine other students. We have our own kitchen and common room. My bedroom, lucky number 107, is a double. I share with Connie, a cutie pie from Indiana.
I’ve been fighting sleep for hours – the gray Sunday sky and drizzling, chilly rain practically begged me to curl up with a blanket on the common room couch. I was the first to arrive at our LLC, at 7AM Danish time (1AM EST). Our Social Resident Assistant (SRA), Nina, helped distract me and keep me awake so I could beat the jet lag.
My other floor members started arriving at 10AM. We’re a pretty varied group, but I can already tell that the ten of us are going to be a tight crew. Although it’s only the first night, we’re ragging on each other like we’ve lived together for weeks. We bypassed small talk along with the much-desired naps.
Our floor took a break from unpacking at around 3PM and ventured out to explore Copenhagen. The Arts & Culture LLC is only a couple hundred feet from the DIS academic buildings (excellent news for morning scramblers like me), and only a corner turn from a grocery store. We hunted rather ruthlessly for a café and then proceeded to meander through the city streets, bundled in all of our rain gear.
There’s a lot to explore here – and so much to learn. Orientation starts tomorrow morning, and in order to prepare, I need to test out my new Danish bed. My sense of time is a little off, but my body knows it’s way past time for some sleep.