Un-Urban Experiments: Træna

Design and Architecture workshop, Træna 2018

Un-Urban Experiments was 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 was an exciting and rare collaboration between the School of Visual Arts (New York), Umeå School of Architecture (Sweden), the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (Norway), and the Norwegian Centre for Design & Architecture. The Municipality of Træna and the Træna Artist in Residence program are hosting the program, with financial support from the Norwegian Arts Council and The Nordic Culture Point.
The workshop consisted of three weeks of intense collaboration and building, that culminated in an opening event during the Trænafestivalen (www.trena.net). A mixed team of design and architecture students worked with the challenge on redesigning the local Grendahus (community house). The goal was to find a new use, layout, design, and concept for the ground floor room and the outdoor space. The workshop was site-specific and based primarily on local requirements and conditions, but it was also open to the unexpected contributions that students with diverse experiences brought.

The site: Grendahuset 

Grendahuset – The Community House
Grendahuset (”community house”) is a building owned by a local association and houses various community events. It was first built by the Temperance movement in 1910, and later became Town Hall and was used for different public services until the 80s. It was then sold to the local Grenda association for 1 NOK and many of Træna’s inhabitants took part in making it functional for various uses.
The goal was to find a new use, layout, design, and concept for the ground floor room and the outdoor space.

The Result

After working with mapping needs and resources, interacting with the locals, asking about their ideas the student group agreed on creating 4 different rooms/spaces that could serve different needs:

  • A «Sun Room» to provide a bright, relaxing space to residents and visitors during the dark winters. Traena has months of total darkness in the winter and social engagement drops significantly.
  • A more conventional and flexible “Third Place” for coffee and conversation. A third place is a social zone that is neither home nor work, common in urban areas but hard to find in small rural communities.
  • A Youth Room with no adults allowed. This room has hang-out space, a movie projector, and flexible seating for the young people of Trræna to make their own.
  • An outdoor Firepit with modular seating, transforming the neglected triangular front yard into a centrally located and architecturally distinct gathering place.


In January 2019 the project was displayed at DOGA in Olso. See pictures below:
Un-Urban Experiment: TRÆNA


Un-Urban Experiments Træna

A summer school in Træna June/July 2018, with young designers and architects from New York, Oslo and Umeå.

Why making a summer school like this?

Urbanisation makes small communities in the outskirts very aware of the constant threat of de-population. Large cities are just as aware of the effects of urbanisation, and the conflict between flourishing innovation environments and challenges of over-population, social segregation and environmental issues.
The workshop had a focus on the contrasts between the urban and the non-urban landscape and was designed to get deeper learning and cross-disciplinary training in the fields of art, architecture and design. In addition, participants would learn from local, practical knowledge. The core questions when designing the program was:

  • How can design, architecture and art give valuable answers to societal challenges we meet today?
  • Can design methods be applicable not only in the dense urban landscape but also in the periphery, in remote and sparsely populated communities?
  • What can young professionals from urban areas in the US and Scandinavia learn from each other, and what can they all learn from small and remote communities?


  • Eric Forman – Project Leader, USA
    Head of Innovation, SVA MFA Interaction Design
  • Nicholas Stevens
    Interaction Designer
    Assistant Professor, Institute of Design, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway
  • Maja Hallén
    Architecture Faculty, UMA School of Architecture, Sweden
  • Erik Mårtensson
    Architect, UMA School of Architecture, Træna, Norway
  • Toms Kokins, Architecture Faculty, UMA School of Architecture, Sweden  https://www.behance.net/kokins

Collaboration partners

  • Ana Betancour
    Rector and Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, UMA School of Architecture
  • Rachel Troye
    Pro-Rector and Head of the Institute of Design, Oslo School of Architecture and Design
  • Benedicte Wildhagen
    Design Leadership Adviser at the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture

Academic Institutions


Exhibition at Design & Architecture Norway (DOGA), Oslo. January 2019

More pictures here: https://spark.adobe.com/page/UufK5l5d5usIq/ 

Blog posts, reports and media

Dhritiman Chatterjees: AHO, Oslo
Alice Smejkalova https://www.alicesmejkalova.com/unurban-experiements 
Kinjal Shah http://www.kinjalshah.info/portfolio/un-urban-experiments/

Partner Institutions & financial support

Norwegian Centre for Design & Architecture (DOGA)
Arts Council Norway (Kulturrådet)
Nordic Culture Point (Nordisk Kulturkontakt)
Nordland County (Nordland Fylkeskommune)

  • Husøya, Træna