With roots leading back to 1910, NTNU is the largest university in Norway, with approximately 33,000 students. The university—highly regarded both academically and amongst students—offers studies in roughly 400 different programs within 13 disciplines at an international level.
In the period 2016 to 2025 NTNU will work on collocation of its facilities to create the future city campus in Trondheim. KOHT Architects was chosen to work together with the university after an open competition that was held during the spring of 2017. Out of 37 submitted proposals, two consecutive rounds where 5 proposals were chosen to be further developed, KOHT Architects was awarded first prize, winning the competition with their pitch.
«We are both humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be working together with the university to lay the groundwork for the future campus of Trondheim.»
Who influences you graphically?
We’ve been very influenced by contemporary Swedish offices like Elding Oscarsson, Jägnefält Milton and Arrhov Frick. We’re also really fond of the work of Jun’ya Ishigami and Sanaa. What all of these studios have in common is that they are playful and simplistic in a way that allows the observer to dream and imagine. We feel it’s very important to create drawings that can also communicate well to those outside our profession.
We also pull inspiration from everywhere around us—from the distinctive visuals of Wes Anderson to the neo-romantic works of the Norwegian painter Theodor Kittelsen. Lately we’re obsessed with the beautiful tradition of Japanese woodblock prints. Especially Kawase Hasui, Yuhan Ito, Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. The compositions, the colors and the sense of tranquility are amazing.
What role do the silhouettes play- what defined the variety?
In a lot of renders we see today, the scenes are generally really overpopulated. As architects we seem to be really afraid to let the focus land strictly on just the architecture. We seem to always be in dire need of something to take the focus away from it.
In the collage images for the NTNU competition, we weren’t afraid of showing the scenes with few people. One person in an image is enough to read the scale or to evoke a certain feeling. This is something that is very evident in the woodblock prints by Kawase Hasui.
In the images for the competition we worked with an age range in terms of silhouettes to show how these new places around the university should be spaces not only for students, but also for the residents in the area—for families, the elderly and even children.
How and to what extent did your experience and studies at the university influence both the project and the way you choose to represent it?
We’ve been living around the NTNU campus in Trondheim for six years now. We’ve actively been using the different parts of the competition area. It has undoubtedly had a strong influence on the project. We developed the proposal on campus. So anytime we were uncertain about the site, or we wanted to observe and analyze which places in the park were used by most people, we could just go out for a walk and see for ourselves. Regarding the concept of opening up the campus, we could go inside the potential buildings and see if it could work to open these up towards the west side of the plateau, the park and the city.
The way we represented the project, at least graphically, is a style we’ve been developing over the years at NTNU. As a young studio we’re still in the process of finding our style. There’s always something new we want to try out, so that will definitely be a constant progression.
What is your take on the hyper realistic render and where does it sit when related to the more textural images?
We definitely think that the hyper realistic render has its place in the world of architectural drawing and presentation. In the context of this competition, as a young firm competing against 4 other large architectural firms in the second round, we think it speaks of a certain professionalism. Not necessarily the render itself, but all the work that lies behind going from a 1:2000/1:500 scale to these two views that in great detail show architectural qualities that resonate with the vision we have for the university and how we want the new structures to interact with the park and the city.
We met quite a few problems making the jump in scale. So in many ways the process of making the hyper realistic render made the project better. Also, it is our first time using a professional studio (Beauty & the Bit) to do the actual rendering for us.
The textural images, or the fala images as we call them in the office (fala atelier is a big inspiration for us) have another goal. In this competition they show a sense of sensitivity and a will to go in and say – look, see how great and beautiful this exact spot in the master plan can be. At the same time they’re open for interpretation and for the observer to imagine deeper, which we think is really nice. They show potential that we think a lot of studios talk about during the design process, but is sometimes lost in the final presentation.
What defined the use of plan and axonometric compared to elevation and section?
We did use sections as well to describe challenges regarding the height difference between the plateau, the park and the street below. And also how the facades of the buildings along Klæbuveien would be active both on street level but also on the level above, where they meet the park. But initially, we found it important to give room for the bigger picture.
Seeing how the competition covered a large area and the assignment was to build 120,000 square meters of new university buildings in a way that create a more integrated part of the city, we found it important to illustrate it in a way that included the urban fabric of the Elgeseter area. It shows the dynamics between new and existing structures, flows and connections.
As of today, the university is a very closed off structure. By making large axonometric drawings we could show how our concept — not only by building along the park in Klæbuveien, but also by removing some buildings on the plateau and redefining the programme in the buildings on the west side of the campus—could create a more open campus towards the park and the city.
KOHT Architects consists of Anders Olivarius Bjørneseth (26), Kenneth Larssen Lønning (25), Jonas Velken Kverneland (27) and Christopher Wilkens (32). Over the past year we’ve been awarded in every competition we have submitted to. With the winning proposal in the open competition for the future NTNU campus, KOHT Architects has been awarded in five out of five competitions.