UN-URBAN EXPERIMENTS - community, collaboration

Un-urban experiments


Short description


A mixed team of design, art, and architecture students from Oslo, New York and Umeå worked on a concrete design issues between the urban and the “un-urban” environment in the arctic islands of Træna. We were given a space in the community with a goal for us to bring something back to the community with this space. We worked through researching the islands, getting to know the locals, getting to know their needs and desires to creating a concept for the given space that can work for the entire community of the island. In the end of the project we actually built our concept and presented the result to the local community.


Background of the project:

Un-Urban Experiments is an extended workshop gathering students from New York and Scandinavia to work together on concrete design issues between the urban and the "un-urban." This program is an exciting and rare collaboration between the School of Visual Arts (New York), Umea School of Architecture (Sweden), the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (Norway), and the Norwegian Centre for Design & Architecture. The Municipality of Treena, and the Treena Artist in Residence program are hosting the program, with financial support from the Norwegian Arts Council and The Nordic Culture Point. 

Concept developed by:
5 design students from AHO, 4 design students from SVA (New York) and 5 architect students from Umea

Project partners: 
Træna Municipality, DOGA, Arts Council Norway, Nordic Culture Point

The space we were given to work with:

Grendahuset - old community house that is now working as occasional event space. But most of the building is not being used at the moment.


The initial process

Because of the fast pace of the project we had to go through our process very fast and efficient. From the early beginning we wanted to involve the locals as this space is for them. And because of this approach we believe in sustainable use of the space, as the locals will feel ownership of the space.


1. Getting to know the locals and the islands itself

Interview locals, getting to know their stories, observing the islands

2. Mapping our findings

We mapped out our findings, as we were 14 people together we were able to find information from many different areas


3. Initial concepts

From findings we started to create initial concepts that we then presented to the community and listened to their feedback

4. Deciding on a concept

And lastly in the concept development we decided upon 5 different concepts that we could work with, we then democratically decided which we felt was the most suitable. We used the method of a bull eye, where everyone has to place their concepts according to their preference and explain why. This is repeated until everyone is agreeing with a concept.


After the initial research and concept development we decided to go for a concept called:

The Sun Room

The sun room is a concept that includes a room that imitates the sun as the islands do not get enough sun light in winter, but also a community space as we found out there is not that many spaces on the islands where people can actually meet. And as we were presenting the concepts, we were given an extra room from the board of the house with a condition that the room needs to be a space for youth. 

Concept development


5. Defining concept

After we decided what the final concept is we could get to defining it


6. Construction

And then we could get to construction, because of the current state of the building the actual construction turned into more refurbishing. The community was also involved in the building, we had frequent checks and visitors from the community and we also had some youth deciding upon their space and helping us paint

7. Opening of the space

We opened the space to public during the Trænafestivalen. 


Personal reflections:

Including locals - Including locals into the process was the most important thing, it was great to see how invested they were in the process and how much they cared about the space. They understood the value of having designers and architects working in the community.

Architecture and design collaboration - It is not usual to combine architects and designers together, but in this experience I found out that this collaboration is actual very valuable and we learned a lot from each other.