In the fall of 2021, during my graduate studies I participated in an exchange program from the University of Texas at Arlington to Lund University. Here I studied with several international students and collaborated on two different architectural competitions. One of which was chosen as honorable mention.
The contrst from Dallas to Lund quite a change. As a Dallas resident automobiles are the primary mode of transportation- this was a huge shift when I either walked everywhere or had to figure out the bus schedule. It is so easy to get blinded to your way of living, when it is all you and the people aroudn you have experienced. To think some way of living is best only because it is all you have ever known. When traveling to Norway (see below) I thought that was an incredible experience but even then, I had a car and at the end of the day- I knew I would be back to America soon. It felt completely different having to find permenant accomodation, finding local restaurants that had the best carrot cake. You are no longer observing a different culture, you become part of it.
Being an American living abroad was a different experience, since my identity had previously in many ways been tied to regional areas. i.e. I'm from Dallas or Texas. But suddenly I was representing an entire country, and to many people I was an 'American' a label I had never worn in a minority setting before. It made me question many of the American ideals that I had always taken for granted. Individual works space vs communal working space. Shared kitchen and restrooms. The biggest contrast I found was the lack of desire for 'things'. No one mentioned a desire for mansions or giant houses, in many cases their dream houses were apartments in big cities. Leading me to ask myself, what is so great about having a giant house, a mansion in Highland Park? I reevaluated my own desires, something I dont think would ever had occured to me in Dallas.
During this semester, our class competed in an international competition. The group I was in, consisted of myself, Alexander Johnsson, Kristina Striewe, and Palina Siarheyeva. Our entry was included in the honorable mentions.
In the summer of 2019 I was granted a traveling scholarship to study sustainable architecture in Norway. Although I wanted to see it all, it wasn't feasible. I settled on Oslo and Trondheim, both have ancient and modern architecture along with Powerhouse buildings. These buildings are an incredible jump for the sustainable ideal, they are energy positive, meaning they produce more energy than they will ever use, including their production and demolition. There are currently four in Norway with the fifth being constructed currently. It was incredible to see how Norwegian architecture has advance in this field, energy positive still sounded like fiction to me. During my trip I stepped into the history of Norwegian architecture, seeing how it's past made way for this type of innovation and development.
I began in Oslo one of the biggest cities in Norway, I stayed on Thief’s island which was very recently developed, a stark contrast to the adjacent Akershus fortress, built in the 1200s. The city was beautiful and completely different from my usual surroundings. The streets begged you to explore the city, pedestrian friendly and overflowing with unique art exhibits, there were even rentable saunas on the water’s edge. Oslo's connection to nature has an incredible impact on the city. The streets are clean and bright, its inhabitants work to keep it that way, it's clear that it is a source of national pride, and rightly earned. The government does it's best to encourage this sentimental well, water bottles can be returned to stores for a slight refund, and cars are discouraged by high tolls and parking prices. It felt like being in one of the most advanced cities in the world.
While in Oslo, I was lucky enough to meet with ZERO (zero emission resource organization). This was the organization behind the Powerhouse buildings. They helped me understand how much time and effort it takes to create something so complex and expensive. Each building requires multiple different disciplines to work together. Snøhetta was one of those partners. They are an architecture firm that has specialized in innovation and sustainability and have designed every single powerhouse building. I was able to tour their office, it was incredible to think I was standing where these sustainable ideas were created.
My journey continued as I drove up the western fjords. My idea for traversing Norway was by car, which is perfect for sightseeing, however this led to the discovery of just how small the roads are, and their proximity to the edge of mountainsides. A huge change from the wide flat Texas landscape. Thankfully, the scenery was more than worth it. It’s truly unbelievable, it felt like another world, incredible green and snow covered mountains that looked untouched by mankind. I stopped in one small town where books filled every building and bookshelves filled all the places in between, it was appropriately named book town. A bit further up I stopped in a bed and breakfast, to get a feel of the local rather than tourist side of Norway. It was a great decision, I talked to locals, had homecooked meals and even bought some of their homemade soaps. They gave me tips on what the best restaurants and destinations to hit on the rest of my trip. Far enough north I saw Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe. It was saddening to discover that Jostedalbreen along with other glaciers were much smaller than they have ever been, and some could disappear in the next few years.
I made my way to Trondheim next, which was the capital during the Viking age and religious capital till the 1600s. Trondheim has adapted to the modern age without losing its heritage, many features of the ancient city still remain. Trondheim is home to both the Nidaros Cathedral, built in 1000s, and the first Powerhouse ever built- Brattørkaia, a modern-day office building. I loved seeing how the building used its resources efficiently. Its roof was designed with solar panels, and the slope was informed by the optimal degree for energy absorption. Trondheim had open-air museums which took you on a trip through time, showcasing different housing and architecture throughout the centuries. From 1200 stave churches, to grass-roof villages. It was such an incredible city full of life and culture.
UNESCO world heritage sites are all over Norway, it’s no wonder their architects and citizens are so dedicated to preserving the beauty they have. I think it is important for architects to travel, see the world in a different context, learn from your surroundings, it brings new ideas and perspectives together to create something even better than what one could do alone. Norwegians have put quality first in architecture and environment and it shows in their land and international image. I hope to apply what I have experienced to new opportunities in my future endeavors, and continue to inspire myself by exploring the hidden beauty in the world around us.
Mary Kolb Berglund Traveling Fellowship 2019
During our class trip to New Orleans, we met with residents of the Lower Ninth Ward to discuss the long-term impacts of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. We also met with Ocean Conservancy, a NGO based in New Orleans that works on a variety of topics related to the Gulf of Mexico and its eco-systems.
It was great to be able to meet with so many locals and talk about how architecture can help solve some of these environmental problems, and what the future holds for New Orleans.
Spring 2018 class trip to New Orleans, Louisiana