March 23, 2018

Landscape architecture students visit Norway to see how they do winter

Field trip offers fresh perspective on designing northern cities

Hopping on a transit to go cross-country skiing, watching reindeer race down a main street and warming your hands over a fire in a city park — Faculty of Environmental Design students experienced a number of different ways to enjoy winter in the city during a recent field trip to Norway.

  • Pictured above are third-year landscape architecture students, from left: Alexia Caron-Roy, Eva Stoklasova, Emily Young, Ben Hettinga, Tara Khazai, Iuliana Morar in Norway to learn about winter city design.

As part of the course, Landscape Architecture for the New North, third-year landscape architecture students spent 10 days in Tromsø, a city above the Arctic Circle, and Oslo, the capital of Norway. The six students took in lectures and studio exercises at the Oslo School of Architecture Institute of Urbanism and Landscape and the Tromsø Academy of Landscape and Territorial Studies, the Arctic University of Norway. They also toured around the cities to experience first-hand different types of northern city design.

“I was able to see great examples of small interventions that really make a difference in terms of being outside for long periods of time,” says Alexia Caron-Roy, one of the students on the field trip. She was impressed with the firepit in a Tromsø park, the excellent public transit and the many warming huts lining cross country ski trails just outside the city. She also liked how skiers waxed their skis while riding transit on the way out to the trails.  

“It definitely affected the way I think of winter city design,” says Caron-Roy. “It also allowed me to have more of a repertoire of good examples which is really important. Being there and being able to live it and really interact with these buildings and public spaces makes a huge difference.”

Caron-Roy and her classmate Emily Young were both wowed by the Oslo Opera House, a building that was designed to last 300 years. “I loved walking through the interior and gawking at the phenomenal design and detail of the building,” says Young.

This warm-up shelter near Tromsø is open to the public. It is near cross-country skiing and hiking trails, and is a popular spot for people when they’re viewing the northern lights in the winter.

This warm-up shelter near Tromsø is open to the public.

Alexia Caron-Roy

She also enjoyed looking up at the northern lights while walking home from a day of classes, and going to see reindeer race at the Indigenous Sami Festival in Tromsø. “We watched pairs of wild-eyed reindeer fly down the main street with spandex-clad skiers in tow,” she says.

This is the first year that EVDS students have gone to Norway as part of a new collaboration with the two Norwegian universities. “This is part of a long-term, collaborative teaching and research exchange program,” says Beverly Sandalack, professor and associate dean in landscape and planning in the Faculty of Environmental Design, who accompanied the students on the February trip.

“We are excited about collaborating to help better understand how climate change affects the landscape and to explore different approaches to winter landscapes and cities,” she says. The collaboration, which is supported in part with grants from the Alberta and Norwegian governments, will see an exchange of students and faculty from Calgary to Oslo and Tromsø.

“The University of Calgary’s new landscape architecture program is the most northerly program in Canada and Tromsø has the most northerly program in Norway,” says Sandalack. “Both have winter for eight months of the year. How do you make a landscape that’s a good place to live? How do you make a city that celebrates winter?”

Students’ photos from the trip are currently being exhibited in the EVDS gallery.