As illustrated by Franz Heske’s writings during the 1930s, practices as mundane as forest management can reflect, if not embody, prevailing religious beliefs and practices. Myths and stories that emerge in the forest persist as strong influences for designing space in many design cultures.

The boreal forest in Norway is a cultural landscape that has influenced Nordic designers across fields; however, designers often ignore the fact that most forests are managed spaces and objects of design.

The studio is not about wood, nor about buildings made of wood. It is about the invention of the forest as a cultural landscape and spatial metaphor informing architecture. Secondarily, the studio looks into the need for an updated set of forest representations in the urban forests around Oslo. From myths to management to spatial metaphors, the studio looks into the persistent yet evolving spatial love affair to the forest in Scandinavia.

We will start by looking at different design cultures through the lens of how they manage their forests, particularly the links between forestry practices and certain architectural traditions.

The forest as project

The research stage will focus on two seemingly polarized scales. On the one hand, the persistent spatial metaphors originated in the studies of forests across different design cultures and their specific links to architecture. On the other hand, projects of afforestation at a territorial scale with clear nation-building agendas.


The projects will be located in the privately-owned forests of Normarka and will be about editing the forest to produce space. An architecture of subtraction and edition in what is one of the world’s most sophisticatedly managed urban forests. Buildings as free-standing objects developed in the studio will relate to the way that the forest is edited.

Working from a distance:

The current travel restrictions present an ideal condition to test the limits of a methodology often used in our studio, which involves modeling a site as an operation of a higher order of importance than site visits or direct experience. We will aim to produce representations and models that are the site. In other words, the reality for us is the constructed model.

To introduce students to the forest as space, we invite renowned Nordic architects and landscape architects to lecture. We expect that getting to know a site exclusively by modeling it, while listening to architects describe it, will develop in compelling abstractions that otherwise might not happen when relying on studio trips.

Some phases of the studio are in collaboration with the Oslo School of Architecture, where a group of researchers and students is working on site. A significant part of the research delivered to the students at Yale will be developed in Oslo, particularly remote sensing surveys of the forests. The students will be introduced to these advanced techniques; however, the students at Yale will focus more on translating this research into architectural design.

All Semesters

Fall 2019
Advanced Design Studio: Gothenburg Studio
Alan Plattus, Andrei Harwell