Becoming Citizens: Architectural Education in the North

by massimois

The PhD research investigates the current architecture education umwelt of the North: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.


As the practice of architecture evolves, so does architecture education.

Architecture, as a discipline as well as a mode of reasoning, that fundamentally responds to the needs of people and their environment is in constant evolution and re-evaluation. “Architecture encapsulates a broader set of environmentally focused questions about the value of the social and material formation of our “build” environments for all” (Rawes: 2013, 1).

The entanglement of the built environment and the anthropogenic climate collapse calls for a reflections on the education of architecture. The current complex systemic problems that humanity faces– such as global warming, poverty, inequalities, refugees’ crisis –  make us reconsider the way we produce, collaborate, and make us realize that we as citizens of this planet share social responsibilities that can no longer be an exclusive matter for our governments. New forms of cohesion have to be developed. Etienne Turpin in “Who Does the Earth Think It Is, Now?” asks: “How might architecture encounter this multi-disciplinary, multi-scalar, and multi-centered reality?”  Architecture therefore has to be part for greater social-environmental justice movement. It can do so by discovering affinities and alliances with both the science and the theoretical humanities (Etienne Turpin). Peg Rawes states that “interdisciplinary architectural, ecological and relational approaches may be even more urgently required for dealing with the complexities and creating biodiversity in our architecture and environments” (Rawes: 2013, 2). So, how can we teach that?.

The umwelt of my PhD research: Becoming Citizens: Architectural Education in the North is populated of different clouds of knowledge.


In contemporary democracies, citizens seem to be recognizing their sense of agency; as a result, they have more of a chance to have their voices heard. Citizen is a morally charged word replete with civic values, duties, responsibilities to protect the public good over mere private interests. But are these values present in the education of an architect?

A responsive type of education would be one that truly engages students with real situations and therefore

architecture education has (or should have) a responsibility to train and nurture students with a socially-minded and empathetic mindset so that they can be making ethical decisions. The word design comes from Latin designare which means to mark, to make a sign, to distinguish, in it is embedded the action of deciding. It is embedded in our profession the act of choosing, of making decisions. Understanding, and developing the role of architects to a complex social, environmental or political problem is yet a territory that needs to be investigated.

What does it mean to be an architect? What does it mean to be a citizen? And how can the two be interchangeable?

Massimo Santanicchia