08 January 2007

09 BAS: Bergen Arkitekt Skole (Bergen School of Architecture)

Last year, in March and June 2006, I was invited by BAS (Bergen Architectural School), a small but very interesting school in a city of Bergen, Norway, to be an accessor for the diploma level examination. Chi Ti-Nan, one of the part-time faculty members, recommended me to the school. (Thanks to Chi).

Knowing nothing, never been to anyplace this high in the latitude, I arrived there in their late winter, with -8 degree C., (Bangkok was 36 degree C. when I left). Everywhere was nothing but snow. Very impressive indeed.

Bergen is a small port town with UNESCO World Heritage stamp for the historical area, Bryggen, of very old wooden 58 buildings dated from the 14th to the mid 16th century. It used to be one of the most important ports in Northern Europe. Nowadays, it is a cute tourist city of the country and a gateway to all the great fjord - a very strange and beautiful landscape of Norway, also UNESCO World Heritage. Bergen is always raining almost all time, so that the Norwegian say that Bergen people are born with an umbrella in their hand. :-O Luckily, it was almost no rain at all when I was there, both in March and June!

Inside the building of UNESCO World Heritage, quite impressive space.

BAS is a private school (being private school in the country where everything is supported by the rich government means that 80-90% of the expenses are funded by the government, the students pay the rest). For a private school, upon their laws, the graduation of any levels has to be certified by an appointed committee. In this case, the committee was; a Norwegian architect (Marianne Flatland), an artist (Sarah Simbet), a foreign architect (myself), a landscape architect for landscape students and a structure engineer.

The three woman accessors: Marianne, Sarah and Racha. We were chitchatting on one late night in the kitchen of our guest house, after several days of long examination sessions in BAS.

Marianne was one of the early graduates from BAS, she also taught there for a while, so she knew more or less everything about BAS. Now she is working in Oslo in the Municipal office and the city's architect. Sarah is a British artist teaching in Oxford University along with her husband, Brian, who was once an accessor for BAS. She is also a writer for books on drawings.

The area around BAS.

I learned that they have a very interesting approach to architectural education which originated by the dean of the school, Svien, around 10 years ago. Nobody is full-time teacher there, even the dean. So they have to practice. The school is run in two parts, one is in BAS where students learn how to make a building, the other part which is lecture classes on philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and etc. the students will go to a university in Bergen. (Bergen is also a campus town for several universities of Norway).

On the way to BAS, in the old industrial area.

Most The first thing the students have to do on the first day the school is to bring their camping equipments and then go camping with their classmates in the fjord for a month. This way, the students would learn with real experience of how to build a shelter in the real climate and topography. They have to live together, therefore, they also learn how to live with 'a community' of their classmates. Coming back from the trip, they have to design a shelter project as their first architectural design project in school. I have to say that this idea is very nice and cute. Just wonder, if it could be possible in Thailand.....

From their studio, you can see the bay of Bergen!

The main idea of the school is very 'hand-on'. Students have to do a lot of manual in different scales. A lot models, drawings and the most impressive thing is their 'one-to-one' model! The graduation works we had to examine started in March, when the students presented a collection of all their works: projects, drawings, models, sketches, trips, structural study, paintings and so on. It was very impressive that they kept all everything. During this first round, we were supposed to get to know the students (all of them were 32), to see their development during these years and give them some comments. Then during the second part in June, we examined the work of the last year. The students selected the sites for their final project around the school. So they make the 'one-to-one' scale model to make us and themselves understand the site. (Sejima did the same, but not with the real site.)

The exhibition of the student works in March.

A one to one model! This one was also mixed with a performance of the student to move the wooden box away, piece by piece, to show the presence and the absence of her building.

This is a one-to-one model of Oscar, a student from Venezuela. He is very talented. This project he wanted to show the idea of contamination, byt this milk running through an existing waterway. Unfortunately, his project is not as strong as the one-to-one model.

another 'one-to-one' model. The site on a hill 20-min walk from BAS. Very nice area. Not the litte greek temple, but the white panels on the hill!

The design model of this project. The brief was to design a building or space for the community. This student did a promenade and steps to look at a small football ground.

Another one-to-one model of Axel, one of the two students we gave 'High Distinction' for his graduation works! This model is very delicate and sensitive!

His final work, which is an elementary school on the rocks...very nice and cute indeed.

The overall experience of BAS, Bergen, and Norway was very interesting. People are extremely nice and intelligent, and the most important thing, very dedicate to their students. They know every single student in depth, because a class is only about 30 people. It made me think a lot about architecture education. I believe that this approach to architecture and how they teach makes much more sense for architecture students from Asia. I imagine my students who would go abroad for their master degree, this could be really a good place to study. Since we have been going to the US. and fancy school in Europe (like the AA. or Berlage Institute) for decades (including myself) it does not seem that architecture in our country would be better so far! In 2008, I am supposed to go back to be in their Master Degree Graduation Examination again along with the other accessors. Really looking forward to. If you are curious about the school: http://www.bergenarkitektskole.no/


Anonymous said...

very interesting photos krab.
i like all the 1:1-site-specific models


roberto OVALLE said...

I am a Costa Rican architect and I start master's degree studies at BAS in August, and it looks SO interesting! I made the right choice applying to BAS :)

-_-_-_-_-_- said...

Quote: "....They have to live together, therefore, they also learn how to live with 'a community' of their classmates."

- This is simply not true. To build a community, whether with your class/workmates or in real life, a lot of knowledge about organizing both personal and common practical matters (and much more) is needed. But the teachers themselves know almost nothing about this subject, and some of them even try to hide their lack of knowledge by claiming that the unavoidable chaos resulting from their lack of qualifications as teachers (not as architects) is an "important part of the school" and/or that students are supposed to "find out themselves". These claims are not in accordance with the school's curriculum, and I really don't think this was a part of Svein's vision for the school.

I have been studying at BAS for 2 years and I am very disppointed. I have still not decided if I'm going to continue my study or not.

h said...

hello, hello

greetings from bergen.
i am starting on my last 2 years of study - already did 3 years.

it was really nice to find this blog and the text about my city and my school.

a BAS student


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