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Published: 09 Dec, 2016

Sustainable architecture and social projects in focus for future architects

NEWS Social and ecological sustainability is what the new Master's Programme in Architecture and Urban Design at the Umeå School of Architecture will focus on with the help of an investigating, experimental set of teachers from all around the world.

Umeå School of Architecture is located next to the beautiful Ume River with great opportunities for refreshing outdoor student presentations.
Photo: Johannes Samuelsson

“In this day in age, society and ecology offers great challenges to us humans. Inequality on a local and global scale, shortage on housing, and migration going in all directions put high demands on architects to develop new solutions based on border-crossing perspectives. Our new Master’s programme aims to create a balance between teaching basic knowledge of the field and finding content that suits a contemporary basis. Through collaborating with the surrounding society, we find new ways to support students in developing their critical thinking and providing them with the tools necessary to approach the societal challenges they will meet in their working life,” says Ana Betancour, rector at the Umeå School of Architecture.

For a university programme, it is always a challenge to find teaching methods that are based on well thought-out ethical attitudes that are still valid despite changes in society. The methods used in the two-year Master’s programme in Umeå, is raising several complex issues in so-called studios. The focus of the studios revolves around various themes and methods and can be changed when needed.

Studio photo.
Many students make their work stations their own by building shelving, screens and decorating it with their own material. Photo: Ambra Trotto

The studio system is a teaching model that is based on students working together with a team of teachers on a specific research area in architecture and urban design. The role of the teacher is to coach the student to develop his or her own theses, projects and attitudes to architecture.

Each student has his or her own work station with a desk and storage unit placed in one of the studios in an open-planned office in the top two floors of the School.

“Our model of teaching helps students find areas in architecture that they are passionate about, and to develop as self-sufficient and socially responsible individuals who are also used to working in teams and pitching ideas,” says Carl-Johan Vesterlund, programme co-ordinator and teacher at the Umeå School of Architecture.

Wood workshop
Students have access to a well-equipped wood workshop and advanced technology such as a 3D printer and a CNC plotter machine. Photo: Johan Gunséus

Apart from an explorative approach, and the students being used to reflecting upon social and ecological sustainability and making good use of resources, there are also creative and practical steps in the education.

Students work on models in various scales, get to experiment with technical solutions and prototypes through full-scale architectural operations and stage it in real life.

What chances of finding work after graduating do students have?

“There are huge opportunities. The need for specific knowledge and abilities to meet current social progress is enormous and there is a steadily increasing demand for architectural competence in sustainable development, city planning and social structuring. Our students are well-prepared for it,” says Ana Betancour.

The reason behind the Umeå School of Architecture adapting its Master’s level programme is to strengthen the perception of the Architectural Programme as a cohesive five-year programme. The two existing Master’s programmes in Architecture have been rather specialised and have attracted relatively few students. In contrast, the new Master’s programme contains parts of previous content, but also take a wider approach in order to offer a greater diversity in subject fields and attract more students both from the Architectural Programme in Umeå and from the outside.

Facts on the Master’s programme:

The programme is taught entirely in English. During the first three semesters, two seminar courses and one synthesis course in the form of a design project run parallel throughout the programme. The fourth term is made up by a degree project. The education leads to a Master of Arts.

More about the Master's Programme in Architecture and Urban Design

About Umeå School of Architecture:

Umeå School of Architecture
The building that houses Umeå School of Architecture with is larch tree façade has been designed by Henning Larsen Architects from Denmark.
Photo: Umeå University

Umeå School of Architecture is a part of Umeå University and is beautifully situated alongside the Ume River, a stone’s throw from the city centre. The Architectural Programme started in 2009 and presently has about 250 students at Bachelor’s and Master’s level.

The architecture of the building strives towards creating a light and open environment that welcomes studying and sharing space across four floors. The objective has been to create an environment that inspires to the exchange of knowledge and ideas between students.

The School is a part of the Umeå Arts Campus, which also houses the Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Umeå Institute of Design, HUMlab-X, Bildmuseet contemporary arts museum, Sliperiet cross-disciplinary collaborative and experimental platform, and a library focused on art, design and architecture.

Read more about Umeå School of Architecture

For more information, please contact:

Carl-Johan Vesterlund, programme co-ordinatorPhone: +46 73-982 10 50

Photographs for download

Editor: Anna Lawrence