Graduate 2017: Architecture that brings light

Education and students

An architect creates spaces for life to be lived in. She does this using a multifarious palette of materials: from bricks and mortar to timber, concrete, tiles – and daylight. Meet the architect, Sally Rudkjøbing, whose final project works with materials and daylight with the objective of improving the physical environment for refugee children at the Kongelunden Asylum Centre.

Please provide a brief introduction to your final project – what is it all about? 

My final project is titled ‘Germination Space – Sensuous Effects for Children / Kongelunden Asylum Centre’. In the project I studied daylight as an architectural element in its interaction with materials and form.

The basis for the project was the Kongelunden Asylum Centre, which is a care centre for particularly vulnerable children and adults who have, for example, been victims of torture and may have physical and mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress and depression.

It is a place, which I feel needs some sensuous personal space. The project focuses on children, working on three sensory stimulation rooms with the emphasis on experience, play, learning and peacefulness. With interaction between materials, colours, alternation between outdoor and indoor areas and light and darkness, the rooms will help stimulate and activate the children in the centre. I decided to call these rooms ‘germination rooms’.

Spirerummet 'Klatreskoven' - snit
Spirerummet 'Klatreskoven' - plan
Spirerummet 'Klatreskoven' - model

What was your motivation for this project in particular?

I have always been fascinated by light and colours, and by how these factors so easily manage to create different moods, spaces and focus and intimacy.

How light, darkness and colours affect us mentally and physiologically - and how we can make an impact on these very factors by orchestrating them in an architectural context. These are issues, which particularly interest me and to which I constantly return in my studies. Sensorily, the way daylight changes is hugely activating and stimulating and is also an indispensable factor when it comes to health and well-being.

The Kongelunden Asylum Centre was originally built to be a military barracks, not a care centre, and it comes across much more as a clinical institution than as a home. This is problematic, because several asylum seekers live up to six years in the asylum centre before a decision is made on their cases. That is a long time to spend in an institution that does not feel like a home. There is virtually no private space for the individual. The rooms in the asylum centre are often shared by several people, and the cramped space can lead to stress. 

Children in particular are intuitively affected – both by the physical environment and by their parents, who in many cases are mentally unstable or gradually become depressed from staying in an asylum centre. I wanted to create some qualitative and sense-stimulating settings that may help to improve the quality of life and well being of the children in the centre. The settings tackle their different needs. They provide space for social activity and the option of retreating for a sense of privacy. They may also help to provide children with a sense of belonging to the place, in which they live and move about.

Spirerummet 'Himmelrummet' - snit
Spirerummet 'Himmelrummet' - plan
Spirerummet 'Himmelrummet' - model

Did you work with anyone else on the project and, if so, what impact did that have on the project? 

In the course of my working process I visited the Kongelunden Centre several times, for example to interview the head of the children’s pedagogical unit. This provided me with a great insight into conditions in the centre, and its pluses and minuses.

Where do you imagine your degree project will make a difference?

I hope that my project can help create a discussion about the institution and its challenges, and a debate about how to create qualitative architectural settings that stimulate, activate, challenge and improve children’s well-being and quality of life.

Can you see any job opportunities in it?

Absolutely. I think that all children, especially the most vulnerable, should have access to inspiring and sense-stimulating ‘germination spaces’ in their everyday lives. There are many institutions – especially asylum centres – that should be rethought and transformed to provide better support for the users’ needs.

Spirerummet 'Vandhullet' - plan
Spirerummet 'Vandhullet' - snit
Spirerummet 'Vandhullet' - model

What are the most enjoyable and the most difficult aspects of the way you work on architecture?

I prefer to work with a kind of micro-architecture on the more intimate, bodily scale, concentrating on perception, where the interaction between light, materials and form creates a total experience. That means my material is often complex and a bit convoluted, and at times can be difficult to define and communicate, because perception and experience differs from person to person.

That is both the most difficult and the most enjoyable part of my way of working. 

What do you think is your greatest strength as a KADK architecture graduate?

My greatest strength is the fact that I have acquired so many different tools and skills during my education, enabling me to tackle a project with a comprehensive and solution-oriented approach.

I am not just a qualified architect whose work spans both digital and analogue.

I am also a bit of a photographer, theorist, artisan, illustrator, sociologist, artist, graphic designer, philosopher, lighting designer, set designer and constructor - you name it!

That means I have the opportunity of proceeding in many directions. That is something I greatly appreciate.

Where do you see yourself career-wise in five years’ time?

Right now, I think there are three routes I could take:

1. Working in a studio, where the focus is on lighting and/or sustainability, children and/or urban space.

2. Working as a freelance illustrator or on cartoon art and poetry.

3. Working as a lighting designer/light artist in the cross field between architecture, art and design in the same vein as the likes of Olafur Eliasson and James Turrell).

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