Copenhagen, Malmö, and the University District Oct01


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Copenhagen, Malmö, and the University District

Each autumn quarter, the UW College of Built Environments offers a multi-disciplinary studio in collaboration with Gehl Architects of Copenhagen, in which landscape architecture, urban design, and architecture students design projects that focus on the public life of urban spaces.

This year Nancy Rottle from Landscape Architecture and Jim Nicholls from Architecture are leading the Scan Design funded studio, Arch 504 and Larch 501. Students will design the broader infrastructure, as well as individual site examples, of a pedestrian-oriented eco-district for the University District in Seattle. A senior consultant from Gehl Architects will interact with the class for two weeks during the term in Seattle, after helping to direct the studio’s summer study trip in Copenhagen.

The studio applies the lessons learned in an over two week long summer field trip to Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden, where we used bicycles to tour architecture, landscape, and green urban infrastructure. While often starting the day with a lecture in the offices of Gehl architects by one of a series of design professionals, the majority of our time was spent in the streets, or rather in the bike lanes, directly experiencing the cities of Copenhagen and Malmö.

Copenhagen provided examples of the historical urban fabric, and contrasted innovative new designs, by firms such as Lundgaard and Tranberg, BIG, COBE, Henning Larson, Public Architecture, and Dorte Mandrup, while Malmö embodied a post-industrial city transforming itself into a showcase of sustainable strategies. The Malmö experience was bracketed by the past masterwork of Sigurd Lewerentz’s cemetery, and the recent spectacle of a landmark tower by Calatrava.

The students started the studio in Seattle by first revisiting their travel experience, sorting though their extensive field trip photographs for design examples capable of translation to the University District context. After a palimpsest site mapping exercise, they are now embarking on a temporal site-specific installation that uses the strategies of street art and DIY street furniture, to tell a place story embedded in the local condition. Using stealth fieldwork and lo-fi fabrication, the work will be deployed and pubic interaction documented. The final result will be a digital tour of all of the sites, showcasing both the intentions and the results.

Next steps will include the mapping of the critical elements of a pedestrian and bicycle enhanced eco-district overlay for the University area, from 15th to the I-5 and from 50th to the waterfront. Individual sites will be explored as pilot projects for the broader strategies. Projects will range from green street overlays and waterfront parks, to metro station plazas and density enhancing infill housing, all following the world-class examples witnessed in Copenhagen and Malmö.

DIY street furniture in Copenhagen

DIY Street Art in Copenhagen

BIG Mountain Housing in Copenhagen

BIG Red Square in Copenhagen

Eastern Cemetery flower kiosk by Sigurd Lewerentz

Cemetery Memorial Fountain in Malmö


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