Exchange students – University of Washington UW – II


This is a interview with Alex Hartway who is on exchange from USA – University of Washington to Aarhus school of architecture. This is a part II to the earlier interview with Logan H. 

How is the education at your school compared to the Aarhus School of Architecture?

The studio content at UW has, in my experience, been so far a nice blend of artistic and pragmatic. Our work early on in the term usually consists of a couple weeks of form experimentation or historical precedence studies, followed by a couple weeks of group-based site research. Our research is usually done without knowing the program of our project in order to have a broader and more general understanding of the design site and its context. Once we begin our design projects, we are expected to have a general idea of the structural/tectonic plan, but we are not necessarily expected to include highly technical construction information. The projects have usually been more about form, materiality, spatial consequences and functionality than technicality and cost.

Relation between tutors and students?

We are in studio Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 13.30-17.30 with professors present (of course, most of us are working in the studio outside of that time frame). Generally there are two professors who rotate through the studio during this time and have one-on-one 10-15 minute design discussions with students. Usually, they’re available outside these times for extra questions or concerns by making an appointment.

More/less studio-based or in class education?

While there is required studio M, W and F 13.30-17.30 as mentioned above, outside of these times we are taking other required “elective” courses, similar to Arkitektskolen’s “optics” courses. These are lecture-based classes such as photography, theory, color studies, environmental practices, etc. These lectures are generally 1-2 hours in duration and meet two or three times a week. Typically, students take one studio per term and three other electives.

More/less project oriented/subject oriented/workshops?

The early part of the term is usually subject oriented (studying form, methodology or case studies) with the latter part of the term being a larger design project with an assigned program and site within the City of Seattle. Throughout the term, we may have some workshops that pertain to a specific topic of the design project (fx. we studied the Japanese paper-making process before beginning our designs for a paper-mill warehouse) or introductions to the metal and wood shops.

Evaluation – ”crits”/tests/grades?

As far as studio goes, we are evaluated throughout the design process by individual “desk crits” with professors (the 10-15min meetings mentioned earlier), periodic small pin-ups and then a final critique, usually with a panel of outside sensors. For the other elective classes, there is typically one mid-term exam halfway through the term and a final exam at the end. Grades are assigned on a 1.0-4.0 scale which are given in 0.1 increments (fx. 3.7 is an excellent grade to receive in studio)

Digital or analogue work?

Whichever method the student prefers. Generally it is nice to do a bit of digital work as there are usually required renderings for the final pin-up. However, some students are very successful with hand-rendered perspectives and drawings.


by students at UW


by student at UW

What software is used/preferred?

  • Rhino, SketchUp, Flamingo, V-Ray, Adobe Creative Suite, but again, it is up to the student!

What is your impression of the Aarhus School of Architecture compared to your school?

The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the heavy focus on collaborative work at Arkitektskolen. At UW, we usually do some group work/research early on in the term but in the studios we’ve taken so far, the final design project has always been individual. While it is nice to be able to focus on your own process and desires in a space or building, it has been extremely helpful to do group work here in Aarhus because that is how the career actually is. Also, we are used to balancing studio with the other elective courses throughout the term. In a way, it is nice to spend two months on just studio as it is here, but it is also nice to have other classes to look forward to when you want to take a break from studio. Additionally, UW is on the quarter system, which means there are three 11-ish week terms as opposed to two 18-ish week terms per year.

Strengths and weaknesses of your school?

I would say that strengths are an excellent group of professors (many of whom are practicing architects), a small department (there are only about 200 architecture students, so we are heard), interesting and informative lectures by local and international architects (usually once every couple of weeks, with free wine and snacks beforehand!) and the selection of courses. The weaknesses could be that an 11-week term seems too short for some as well as less focus on group work.

Why should students from Aarhus choose to go to your school, and would you recommend it?

Seattle (and all of Western Washington) is an incredible place and beautiful at every time of year (really, spend some time on Flickr or Google Images). It’s full of mountains, lakes and bays. Skiing and hiking options are within an hour’s drive, it has an excellent public transportation system and tons of interesting neighbourhoods (plenty of variety in bars, clubs, restaurants, etc.). You can rent a kayak or sailboat, climb a rock wall, or swim some laps, all directly on campus. The Architecture department is full of interesting students, projects, lectures and otherwise awesome happenings (such as Happy Hour every other Friday….).

Is there a person at your school that students can contact, if they want to get in touch with the school or have questions about it?

Our adviser is currently on maternity leave, but good resources could be both Abby Crossen (the department chair, as well as Kathryn Merlino (professor and program director,  Interested students should also look into the “Scan|Design Fellowship,” which provides funding, events and networking opportunities for students on exchange between Denmark/UW. For more information, send a mail to Also, feel free to email the current exchange students from UW: Gabriela (, Logan ( or Alex ( for any other questions!

You can find more in this subject at the category Udveksling
(All pictures are from UW)

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