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40 567 Transformation in Practice: Infill

Full course name in Norwegian Bokmål: 
Transformation in Practice: Infill
Course code: 
40 567
Level of study: 
Teaching semester: 
2024 Autumn
Assessment semester: 
2024 Autumn
Language of instruction: 
Maximum number of students: 
Person in charge
Amandine Kastler
Erlend Skjeseth
Course content

This semester, the Transformation in Practice Studio will focus on the densification of small cities by proposing an apartment block for a historic centre in rural Norway.


Different from European cities, small town centres in rural Norway lack the long urban tradition found on the continent. Often related to the emergence of industry or proximity to waterways, small towns appear as stations along the railway, at the intersection between highways, or nodes between trading routes. Towns frequently grew around clusters of farms in advantageous locations, which are now embedded into the urban fabric like relics of the past. Large farms took on the role of uniform and well-established town centres in Europe, where the type and expression often seamlessly incorporate new developments through strict control.


On the other hand, Norway looks more like the Wild West, a free-for-all version of the US, defined by sprawl, sudden densification, and a variety of facade expressions. Through the advent of industry in the 19th century, these town centres developed rapidly and with little planning. In postwar Norway, increased wealth further accelerated this expansion, and the few pockets of urban fabric established as a homogenous type in the late 19th century or early 20th century were often partly demolished and replaced by modernist structures. Combined with car-based town planning, the market-liberalist and developer-led policies of the last 40 years has led to places that struggle with fragmented scales of buildings and undefined urban spaces. The architecture is a hotchpotch mix. At best, there is a richness in its diversity, but too often, it is defined by low cost and poor-quality housing.


These developments starkly contrast sustainability strategies for increasing density by adding residential units within already built-up areas to diminish the need for cars, reduce CO2 emissions, and protect green spaces in urban environments. Current governmental planning policies advocate for the so-called knutepunktfortetting to breathe life into small-town city centres for greener and more sustainable living. The aim is to make efficient urban knots that bind together commercial infrastructure and housing with short distances between daily functions and synergies that reduce carbon footprint. Meanwhile, in the familiar terms of planning regulations, buildings should be 'in keeping'. Pitched roofs, dormer windows, and variations in the façade are prescribed qualities that, once scaled up, will test the line between fitting in and standing out. Traditional timber town city centres were dominated by domestic types adapted to become commercial buildings, leaving few precedents for the scale of construction needed.


The question of scale and translation is central. It often needs to be clarified whether a small town can absorb a big building, and if so, what characteristics it should take on. Nevertheless, there is precedence for large timber buildings in Norway, and the resurgence of timber as a sustainable construction material makes them pertinent case studies to revisit. At the end of the 19th century, trade centres like Arendal were small cities that required functions that greatly exceeded the construction possibilities of a single log. Local architects pushed the technology of the notched log and designed timber megastructures. The scale of these buildings prompted translations of buildings on the continent. Sand mixed with paint translated timber into stone. With little precedent locally, new building types that now seem perfectly integrated into the city were designed. We will again have to break new ground in places like this, and precedent must be found far and near.


Working within this context, the studio will ask the following questions:

What does it mean to design contextually in our times?

How do we design urban scale housing in a historical and non-urban context?


The output of the studio will consist of well resolved projects with distinctive formal qualities built on clear intentions. In groups students will be assigned a site in a historic town centre within a radius of 150 km of Oslo. The sites will be assigned according to certain common parameters of size, history, type of urban fabric and zoning plans that advocate further densification. The students will visit local planning offices, understand the development plans, and design a residential building within that plan. Depending on the site, projects will engage with the transformation, connection and extension of existing buildings, as well the design of autonomous new additions. Ideally, projects will include a mix of apartments and commercial spaces.

Through sampling existing qualities in the built environment, the proposals should aim to have an expression that speaks to and with the place without falling for the pastiche or romantism. The translation of material and form transcends the classifications of new and old, modern, and traditional. Plurality in building and the metamorphosis of one material into another is almost as old as construction itself.

The relationship between façade and plan will be essential. The conflict between cost, contemporary technical requirements and traditional features will be explored. Sustainable construction will be key, from the reuse of existing structures to the use of contemporary timber technology. Just like older buildings cannibalized their own through the reuse of elements and parts, the proposals will actively work with the repurposing of recycled elements.

Learning outcome


  • Document and interpret the current condition, both quantitative and qualitative, of an existing building or site using architectural drawing convention.
  • Formulate individual architectural proposals based on close observation and analysis of existing conditions and identify the architectural qualities in one's own work that demonstrate a relevance to the field. 
  • Understand the basic regulatory frameworks that govern architectural projects, such as zoning plans and heritage guidelines, assess their impact on one’s own architectural project.
  • Convey through oral presentation and writing an understanding of the key terms, definitions, and concepts of preservation and situate them relative to with to one’s own architectural project.


  • Introduced to methods for research driven approach to working with existing buildings, through working in archives and fieldwork.
  • Independently undertake a precise measured survey of a site, using analogue and digital surveying technology.
  • Design and build large scale material models as an approach to transform existing buildings and places.

General competence:

  • Students will learn to practice as an architect within the fields of building transformation.
Working and learning activities

The studio does not consider research, in any form, to be a separate exercise from ‘propositional thinking’, rather, it asserts that the act of reading, observing, surveying and fabricating new artifacts is all propositional by nature and therefore a powerful asset within design thinking.


The studio will be organised into three parts:


Survey: The studio will lend considerable attention to understanding context through fieldwork and surveying. Students will work on-site for parts of the semester to study variations in building culture, style and typology.


Artefact: The survey will be the foundation for the artefact, a large-scale material model that starts the inverted design process from fragment to building. The model is a physical and material manifestation of an essential component or junction found in your survey, translated into a three-dimensional piece at a detailed scale.


Proposal: Students will work iteratively to find an appropriate and feasible way of constructing an architectural project that has contemporary relevance and engages with the existing building and town centres. Building on close observations of the context, students will develop their own architectural and technical agenda based on an understanding of current challenges.


Projects will answer to the specifics of the building whilst being relevant to the broader discourse on the future of this type of building. The architectural proposal will be developed through large-scale material models, both analogue and digital, and architectural drawings. Craft will inform contemporary construction methods and material exploration by learning from what has already been built.


The different work phases will be supported by workshops and seminars.


Case studies will form a collective repertoire international examples of built housing developments inserted into historic town centres with a range in scales and character.

Travel week will be in Norway - destination tbd

Students will be expected to work on site for parts of the semester. Teaching will consist of twice-weekly tutorials, seminars, peer to peer feedback sessions, pin-ups and reviews with invited critics.

Form of assessmentGroupingGrading scaleComment
Project assignment-Pass / fail Students are expected to be active participants, to attend all trips, studio meetings, pin-ups and reviews, while keeping up with a rigorous level of production. Absences from studio meetings and reviews will affect the final grade and multiple unexcused absences can result in course failure.
Form of assessment:Project assignment
Grading scale:Pass / fail
Comment: Students are expected to be active participants, to attend all trips, studio meetings, pin-ups and reviews, while keeping up with a rigorous level of production. Absences from studio meetings and reviews will affect the final grade and multiple unexcused absences can result in course failure.