Episode 10- Årstiderne Architects: Young at Heart
So Alina, since arriving in Copenhagen we’ve met a lot of architects, and seen a lot of offices. What stands out to you as the main difference between Danish and Australian architecture firms?
The age. Architects are so young in Denmark! Compared to most of the directors and partners in Australian firms, the Danish offices feel like high schools.
Well, as they say, you can’t teach an old architect new CAD software…
They don’t say that!
The next office in our archi-firm tour of Copenhagen is a perfect example. Årstiderne Arkitekter (translates as ‘the seasons architects’) have been around for 30 years, have offices across Denmark and in both Bangladesh and India, and have an average age (in their Copenhagen office) of 35. Given that this office has a little under 100 staff, that says a lot about the office culture and philosophy.
Not a single drawing board in the studio!
Årstiderne is one of Denmark’s largest architectural firms, with around 260 employees in Scandinavia and a portfolio that covers just about every building sector. They are a highly awarded, multidisciplinary architecture firm who also have Landscape architecture and Space Planning departments, and are proud (rightfully so) of their very Danish approach to design- clean, simple, functional and practical. The office was started in Silkeborg- a small city in central Jutland, and has since opened offices in Copenhagen (12 years ago) and more recently in Aarhus.
We were once again surprised by how welcoming and accommodating they were for two young, curious, Australian architects, and we were given the office tour of their split-level studio space. The office is housed in a conversion of an old storage warehouse for Irma- one of the main Danish grocery store chains. The office itself is arranged as a series of spaces that break down the number of staff into teams and departments, and create a more intimate setting to work in. The office also has a large space in the adjacent building, which is currently undergoing renovation works, but houses the staff kitchen and dining area. As with many of the large offices in Denmark, lunch is provided for the staff each day
Perhaps that’s the key to the success of Danish architects- Nothing drives creativity like a full stomach!
And a lot of coffee…
The lunch room is perhaps the most interesting space of their office- the glass roof (covered by a fabric ceiling during our visit) is a remnant of the historic use of the space by Irma- the room was used to ripen fruit after being imported from more tropical regions, and before making its way to the store shelves across Copenhagen.
We were also lucky enough to have a sit down with Krestian Olsen the office manager, and Anne Aksglæde Stahl the marketing chief- both of whom are, as is the theme with Årstiderne, young, talented and ambitious!
The Copenhagen office takes in around 10 interns each year, but with the other offices also hiring interns it is definitely worth applying for a position if you are considering moving to Denmark as a student. We were told that although the main language in the office is Danish, English is commonly spoken socially and in team discussions. Krestian confirmed that there are a number of foreigners working in the office, and calculated that 8 countries (including Denmark) are currently represented in the office…
Although they don’t have any Australians… yet!
We were also told that around 2/3 applications the office receives are from foreign architects- an indication of the number of foreign architects that are currently seeking employment in Denmark, and also an indication of how challenging it is to get a job here.
We put Krestian on the spot, and asked him about what his dream job would be if he could receive any commission. His response was considered and sincere- he told us that the recent job they had completed was his dream job: Postgaarden is a renovation and conversion of an old historic post office in the centre of the city. In a similar vein as the conversion of their own office space, the project was complex and challenging- having to navigate the historic, urban and multi-programmatic nature of the project, whilst working within the stringent heritage controls that govern almost all buildings with Copenhagen’s city centre. The project is recently completed, and commercial tenants have begun to move in- always the most exciting moment for an architect in the life of a project.
Check out their website at www.aarstiderne.dk/
We left this meeting with a sense of optimism and anticipation, knowing that yesterday’s Copenhagen is being guided into tomorrow by the upcoming generation of young, passionate architects.
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