Andrew Banks' home university is Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He was an exchange student autumn 2007.
I: What was your first impression of the school?
AB: It is a big school and there are a lot of different things going on. It is not a school of one ideology but of a lot of people experimenting.
I: How were the first couple of weeks at the school?
AB: It was really good and very tense. We had quite a lot of assignments giving us some work. The Friday bars that started immediately were very funny and offered us the chance to get to know a lot of people. The exchange introduction gave us a better understanding of Copenhagen.
I: How did the accommodation work out for you?
AB: It has been perfect. We have a good relationship to the landlady and the house where we stay is 5 minutes from the school. It has been amazing. The group of us living there has become very close friends. It is a like a base of socialisation where we have people from the school over for dinner. I have been very lucky as compared to some of the other exchange students.
I: Which nationalities do you live with?
AB: It is a Suisse, two guys from Australia and me from New Zealand. It has become an Australian, half-Asian way of cooking - and a little bit of the heavy Suisse way of cooking. And then when we have Danish friends around they make potatoes, pork and stuff. It is a lot about eating.
I: So sometimes you hang out with Danish friends?
AB: Yes, I have become really close friends with a group of Danes. I was learning Danish before I came here and I think that really helped making Danish friends.
I: What do you think about Danes?
AB: They are all very cosmopolitan. One is from Jutland, one is from Copenhagen, one is from the country side and one is actually from Iceland. One of the girls invited us for the election night and you could tell – just by looking at the politics – that it is a very diverse country. The only thing is getting past the language barrier, once you get past that it is like any other friendly society.
I: Have you had the chance to get around in Copenhagen and Denmark?
AB: Yes, in Copenhagen because my friends live in different parts of the city. One of the girls took me to her father’s farm in Slagelse [Danish provincial town]. I went out there for a week, met some locals, got around to the country side as well, which I don’t think any tourist would do.
I: Could you tell me about the way of working at the school and your own project?
AB: It is a lot different to what I come from. It is focused on one project so you spend all your time doing one project with little workshops around it. I really enjoyed that way of working because it has given me the time to understand how I work – not just what I am making – but how I am making it. It has also been difficult because you have to keep yourself interested in that project for a long period of time. But I found it very valuable mainly because it exposes to yourself the way in which you make architecture – it is the personal way.
I: Can you tell a little about your project at the school?
AB: I have been looking at the congested city and this is something that is relatively new to me because I have never been to Europe before and you come here and realise that there is a lot of people at a small place. The Danish concept of ‘hygge’ is very important in this country – that is a word I don’t think you can really translate into English – you have to experience it It seems to me that 'hygge' is the positive experience of cosiness in a crowded city.Specifically I have been exploring a bicycle park and how that can integrate with the surrounding programme and spaces.
I: How does your architectural background from New Zealand influence the project?
AB: I think the biggest thing is difference in the way we use to work. The way I have been working a lot before coming here is through a lot of drawing. I came here and everybody has been making a lot of models so I started to do that. Some of the other Danish students have maybe also been inspired by my drawings. There is a lot of exchange in terms of the way of working. When you are put in a context that is not normal, you get the opportunity to question your background. Another thing you bring is that you have a whole different world to compare the one you are in now. I was talking to my teacher, he was saying that the project I am doing, would probably not be something that a Danish student would do because it would be something that is quite normal for them.
I: What would you like to bring back to your school in New Zealand from this school?
AB: Not so much from the school, but from the project I have been exploring that has made me realise certain things that possibly would happen in New Zealand in the nearest future. I can also bring back the skills of operating my own project.
I: Can you give any pieces of advice to the prospect exchange students?
AB: Learn some Danish before you come – you will find it so much easier to socialise afterwards.