Students win competition for a Nordic Academy in Skagen

Education and students

Two architecture students have won the competition for a concept for a new Nordic Academy of Art, Design and Tourism in Skagen. Their project transforms the landscape into a dynamic Skagen painting.

The two students, Sandra Lehne and Nikolai Liknes Hansen are both undergraduate students on the 'Whole and Part' programme at the Institute of Architecture and Design. Together they designed the competition project, ‘Mirror Mirror on the Landscape’: a conceptual outline proposal for the architectural framework for a new Nordic Academy, which will bring together art, design and tourism in Skagen. They did it so well that the other day they were awarded the first prize of DKK 50,000 by Skagen’s Mayor, Birgit Hansen.

The elements in ‘Mirror Mirror on the Landscape’ consist of four studios with mirrors, erected in a straight line in the landscape from Skagen Odde Nature Centre and out to Grenen. The mirrors form an optical illusion, almost like dynamic Skagen paintings, which turn the horizon up and down and jog both the sky and the landscape, providing visitors with a new way of viewing the ever-changing landscape of Skagen Odde. We talked to Sandra Lehne and Nikolai Liknes about the project, about winning a competition and about improving their architectural skills by working together.

What were the main idea and inspiration for your project, ‘Mirror Mirror on the Landscape’?
Skagen is a place in a state of constant change, where weather and wind continually define the landscape. Skagen is known for its many sunny days and its very special light. The unusual landscape and its constant changeability are the basis of our idea – nature’s own work of art. The Skagen painters are a big part of the history of Skagen and we wanted to develop and rediscover this – with a twist.

We want to update Skagen’s artistic history and provide today’s visitors with an opportunity to enter the pictures. The old traditions and stories are perpetuated and inspire new reactions. We have a vision of creating what might be described as dynamic Skagen paintings in the landscape. We want to ‘edit’ the line of the horizon, and pull the sky and landscape up or down in relation to one another, like a kind of optical illusion.

Have you worked together before and what has working together on a project given you?
We have not worked together before, but know each other well. For our entire first year, we sat together at the same table in the studio. That is how we found out that we get along well together.

The way we work together is positive and dynamic. We are very different in many ways, but we have the same goals and the same work ethic. We have different ideas and thoughts about what things should be like, and the process often ends up with us producing something unexpected and surprising, something we would not have been able to produce alone. We simply improve one another with our discussions about the project.

Having two of us on the project was quite crucial. In the first phase of the project we spent a week in the studio, and there was loads to do. What was particularly important was spending three days in Skagen to set up the exhibition. We had to build models, and that always takes longer than expected.

What experience have you gained by working on this project?
‘Mirror Mirror on the Landscape’ is a conceptual project. Together with our former teachers, Niels Lund Petersen and Jens Kristian Seier, we learned a lot about how to see a concept through and to use simple, graphic means of communication. We have gained some invaluable communication experience. How do you present a project to an audience with 8,000 votes and to a jury? When you can describe your own project, the interaction between model and poster becomes really important.

We have also met lots of fascinating people and made excellent contacts in Skagen and Frederikshavn Municipality.