The history of the School of Architecture

Founded in 1754, The School of Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts was originally named 'The Royal Danish Painting, Sculpture and Building Academy of Copenhagen', and was offered as a gift to King Frederik V on the occasion of his 31st birthday.

The academy was built as an addition to the painting and drawing academy founded by King Christian VI and King Frederik VI in 1738 and 1748 respectively, and was inspired by the first European, royal academy of fine arts, which was founded in Paris in 1648.

The academy was originally located in a section of Charlottenborg on Kgs. Nytorv in Copenhagen.

The Danish architect Nicolai Eigtved served as the first director of the Academy, which at first was run – in the spirit of absolute monarchy – by a member of the royal family. The meetings were always attended by either the king or a prince. The Academy’s second director was the Frenchman Saly who is probably best known for his equestrian statue of Frederik V situated in the centre of Amalienborg Castle Square.

1771 was a very important year in the history of the Academy. This was the year when the Academy’s name was changed to 'The Painting, Sculpture and Building Academy'. And that very same year, the Struenses Reglement of 21 June 1771 was implemented, which meant that the schools were obligated to not only educate artists, but also offer tradesmen an education. Thus, craftsmanship and the study of fine arts were unified.

In 1814 the school changed its name again, and was now referred to as ‘The Royal Academy of Fine Arts’.

In 1857 the school’s tradesman training programme was transferred to Det Techniske Selskabs Skole (presently known as Copenhagen Technical University), which meant that the King was no longer in charge, and subsequently the school officially became an academic institution.

In response to the more formal, internationally style-oriented study programmes, ‘Den danske Klasse’ and a school of building technology were established shortly after the turn of the century. The educational programme yet again succeeded in uniting the arts and craftsmanship, and the architecture programme had now become what one would consider a complete programme. Subsequently, Kaare Klints school of furniture reopened its doors to tradesmen studying at the Academy.

Starting in 1924 the instruction went from being somewhat informal, individual one-on-one learning to in-class instruction with compulsory attendance. New dissertation topics and syllabuses were implemented. The artistic, technical and social aspects of the profession had now essentially become equally significant parts of the programme. In other words, the in-class instruction had undergone an extensive “modernisation”.

It was also in 1924 that the full gender equality principles were implemented, a ground-breaking event marked by the closing of the model school for women. Men and women were now equally entitled to apply for admission to the Academy of Fine Arts.

In the middle of last century, the Academy approved the decision to convert the School of Architecture into a “centre of artistic and scientific research pertaining to building technological and architectural issues”, and subsequently concurred that it should fall on the school to “promote all such research”.

The newly launched modernisation policy also led to the formation of a number of departments covering the preconditional disciplines of architecture. The instruction now took a scientific approach to the profession, and the school gained ample recognition for offering its students “research-based higher education”.

In 1968 the Academy of Fine Arts was divided into three independent institutions, namely The Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, The Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Sculpture, and The Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In 1973, The Academy of Fine Arts School of Conservation was added to this conglomeration of institutes.

The Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture proved to be a highly popular choice among new students, and in 1977, due to its rising popularity, the school decided to institute a restricted admission policy, which meant that it would now only accept 285 new students each year. This was used as a precautionary measure as the number of students had risen from 600 in 1969 to nearly 2000 in 1977, without being accompanied by the grants necessary.

In 1995 a new administration law was enforced, which granted the school’s rector more power to chart new strategies and action plans. The rector is elected for a period of four years.

In 2002 a new internal structure was implemented, which subsequently led to the 3+2+3 curriculum, which means that the programme was split up in a 3-year bachelor programme, a 2-year master’s programme and a 3-year PhD programme.

In 1995, The Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture gradually began relocating to Holmen in newly renovated facilities. This offered the school an opportunity to condense its departments and institutes, which previously had been scattered all over the city, in Charlottenborg, Nyhavn and Christianshavn, respectively.

At the turn of the year 2010/11, the Danish Design School moved to Holmen to colocate with the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture with a view to a merger at a later stage. On 1 February 2011, the two schools officially celebrated the colocation. The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation was not and is not part of the colocation.

On 2 June 2011, the merger between the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture and the Danish Design School and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation was a reality. The new institution is called The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.