fbpx 40 640 In Balance - Arctic Cycles | Arkitektur- og designhøgskolen i Oslo


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40 640 In Balance - Arctic Cycles

Full course name in English: 
In Balance - Arctic Cycles
40 640
Syklus 2
2021 Vår
2021 Vår
Tine Hegli
Om emnet

A design-build exercise for a community greenhouse in Vardø


Course content

In Balance studio aims to equip the student with a knowledge platform where architecture is examined within a context of ecological sustainability. 


The studio’s main assignment spring 2021 is to design and build a community greenhouse in Vardø, a small coastal town on the Norwegian Arctic mainland. The design strategies applied will emerge from an understanding of natural cyclic systems that form and shape our physical environment. The studio will through three introductory sub-assignments investigate the relation between these systems and the architectural design approach. The learning outcome from the course should be applicable to other design tasks where a minimal climate footprint is part of the ambition.


There will be two main tracks in the investigation of cyclic systems; climate cycles and carbon cycles, understood at both a global and local level.


Climate cycles: Knowledge on the natural climate cycles and local seasonal weather conditions will inform how the design can give shelter for human activities, and provide conditions for growing of local crops in a challenging Arctic environment. With a global climate in rapid change, the ability to forecast and adapt to future conditions adds further complexity to this task. The course will introduce tools and methods that can catalyze the design process and enable evaluation of different strategies and concepts.


Carbon cycles: To reach the UN sustainability goal of climate action and carbon neutrality in 2050, the global society will need to introduce a circular economy and bring the use of resources in balance with what the ecosystems can sustainably supply. This requires an extensive use of reclaimed materials for future architecture, and a design approach that is based on a material archive rather than virgin products. In Vardø a number of buildings are under condemnation due to decades of depopulation, in turn leading to a lack of maintenance. Through the voluntary efforts of local initiators, building elements from these structures are made available as construction materials for the community greenhouse, leapfrogging the barriers of a linear economy still dictating the demolition processes within the building industry today. Seeing the vacant houses in light of their cultural identities, the re-use strategy is given importance also as a way to maintain cultural heritage. This merge of mindsets highlights how future material cycles need to recognize and keep both material and immaterial values in the loop. The course will discuss these aspects of circularity from various angles and through several design exercises with the aim to enable the students to make informed design decisions where quantitative and qualitative data intersect in a lifecycle perspective.  


The studio pays special attention to the importance of enabling students – the next generation of architects - to actively participate in the professional discourse and thereby contribute to ongoing innovation processes leading towards societies’ existence in balance with nature This is facilitated by bringing in voices that represents a broad spectrum of perspectives, within our own field of work, as well as from neighbouring engineering disciplines, decoding terminology and translating quantifiable measures into design response.


The studio teaching, all sub-assignments and the main assignment design phase will take place at AHO. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of a functional project providing fully constructable working drawings, these will be integral to the final evaluation of the studio work. The construction phase will form the closing stage of the semester in week 18 and 19 (3-12.5), after completion of elective courses and hand-ins for pre-diploma, and will be assisted by a solid construction team consisting of local resource persons in Vardø




  • On the impact of human activity in the ecosystems at large, with special focus on the climate footprint of buildings.
  • On the relevance of mapping both physical properties, and cultural identities and values when establishing a material archive from reclaimed sources.
  • On design processes that seek to actively respond to and utilize the local climate (wind, snow, rainfall, solar radiation, daylight).
  • On the importance of bottom-up strategies and community resilience in marginal Arctic communities.



  • To be able to critically engage in the discourse concerning sustainable design, both on a societal level and within a professional environment including the terms and vocabulary that defines zero emission and circular design strategies.
  • To be able to recognise the mechanisms of circularity, identify resource value from alternative perspectives and engender them in a unified concept.
  • To be able to analyze and utilize local climate parameters to design well adapted spaces for both outdoors and indoors activities.

General competence

  • To plan and design a medium-sized building for public use.
  • To develop a sustainable conceptual design based on principals of circular economy.
  • To realize the design through form, materials and details.
  • To develop an individual position to where the students can actively question and debate the ongoing societal changes and architecture can play an important role in the transition.


Praktisk organisering og arbeidsmåter


Course organization and teaching methods

The design studio work will conclude in a realistic architectural proposal, documented with 2D drawings, 3D models – both digital and analogue. The proposal will eventually be constructed 1:1 by the students and teachers in collaboration with local recourses.


The core teacher team will consist of Tine Hegli, Kristian Edwards. Additional teaching resources – both internal and external – will be assigned to the sub-assignments and participate in plenary reviews throughout the semester.



The course will include:

  • Introductory sub-assignments that generate a common knowledge base for the studio
  • Tutoring in the studio (or on digital platforms)
  • Lectures by teachers, invited architects and engineering expertise
  • Site visits to see relevant architecture in the Oslo region
  • Field trip to Vardø (week 18 and 19, 3-12.5)
  • Plenary reviews


The course will be bringing in expertise within the following subject areas:

  • Urbanism and landscape – resources from previous and ongoing research work at AHO focusing on societies, resources and landscapes in the artic region. Contribution will focus on place development and community building in marginal communities.
  • Circular design strategies – expertise within the building industry on designing by principals for a circular economy (re-use/re-cycle/up-cycle/design for disassembly/designing out waste etc)
  • Climate analysis – expertise within the building industry with knowledge on the use of climatic simulations (Computational Fluid Dynamics - CFD/Solar radiation/Daylight/outdoor microclimate modelling)
  • Vardø – local stakeholders will be involved in the design development and execution of the final greenhouse design.

The Nordic context and research work on zero carbon buildings provides the background for investigation. The methodology and tools introduced are developed and tested in the profession and about to become mandatory requirements for the building industry going forwards. Course material will be conveyed through lectures, project references and visitation, and in turn linked to project sub-assignments of both theoretical and practical nature.  

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