CAFx Summer School 2018











 Under the heading ‘Architecture as Social Integration’ the CAFx Summer School 2018 focused on architecture which facilitate connections between people in a small Danish town.

Skagen is the northernmost town in Denmark, located on the top of the Jutland peninsula. It is widely known for the Scandinavian artist colony ‘Skagensmalerne’, who assembled and worked in Skagen from the late 1870s until the turn of the century. But it is also one of Denmark’s main fishing ports, and the unique nature in the area in addition to the large number of architectural and cultural sights attract up to two million tourists annually, making it what you might call a seasonal town.

Since 1980, the population of Skagen has decreased by almost 50% and the city is currently home to around 8.000 inhabitants – a sharp contrast to the vast number of tourists that fill the streets during the summer. Since the EU’s eastern enlargement in 2004, many Eastern Europeans have come to Denmark to work. The outskirts of Denmark have experienced a particularly large influx. Out of the 8.000 inhabitants in Skagen, about 300 Romanians have only minimally integrated into the community. They typically work in the factories, the hotels, restaurants and campsites.

Skagen has integrated fishermen, alternative artists and other newcomers from near and far throughout its history. The summer school investigated how the town meets and incorporates newcomers into the social structure in 2018. The participants sought out the spaces of social integration and worked with documenting and/or staging in order to create short cinematic portraits of the architecture of these cultural intersections.

The program

The ten participants came to Skagen from nine different countries to spend a week together. They all had an architectural background but some only recently started studying the topic while others had been working as trained architects for a few years. Few of them had had actual training in filmmaking – but they were all excited to learn, and so this was going to be an intense week for all!

They were met with a tight schedule and a big question – what does ‘architecture as social integration’ mean and how do you capture it on film? And so they set off on a journey through Skagen in the intersection of film and architecture with only motivation and interests as the driving force.

The first two days were spent on introductions to the town, the topic and the techniques. The participants biked around town with local architects and they met up with informants individually – from the elderly Danish couple in the allotment garden, to the Romanian restaurant owner and the young guy from the middle east working in the fish factory. While they were discovering the everyday lives of the locals and the local architecture, they also met their tutors – documentary filmmaker Lea Glob, scenographer Maja Ziska, photographer Sidsel Becker and anthropologist Tine Sønderby, who shared their thoughts and knowledge about the topic and disciplines through lectures and short intense workshops on both architecture, film and the exploration of spaces of social integration.

After the first couple of days of introduction a little more than a day was spent on locating a site to portrait and developing a concept as well as a production plan, and finally each participant had just three days to film and edit a short cinematic portrait of the chosen architecture as social integration.

The topic

Creating a film in only three days is a challenge – especially for amateurs. Besides guidance from the tutors a few restrictions and rules helped the participants to focus in on the essence of the topic and the chosen spaces. Overall each film had to include a meeting between two defined characters which described a space as that of social integration. There was to be no music. Duration between three and five minutes, and the director had to appear in each film and somehow introduce the film in no more than 200 words.

The topic ‘Architecture as Social Integration’ guided the participants to understand space as character and challenged their storytelling abilities. One thing is to be able to identify a space as the architecture of social integration – be it in the fish factories, restaurant kitchens, local halls, laundromats or libraries. Another thing is to make the spaces tell a story of facilitating connections between people, making the building (and not the people) talk on camera. This was an intense and strenuous process for all and it shaped the short films in distinctive ways demanding a simple but strong conceptual approach.

In ‘Arrival’ Cemre Önertürk tries to communicate directly with a building that has been closed down. She uses her body to become part of the architecture and force the building back to its original purpose as a train station or a portal of integration for the bodies of the travelers.

In ‘Encounter’ Bayan Mujahed takes a cool distant approach to an equally cool and contemporary building documenting the architecture almost as a continuation of the sea – a machine producing sailors to steer the ships onto the horizons.

In ‘Windowstills’ Christina Voumvouraki throws herself and handful of buoys into a concept of trying to create a temporary community of spaces with a shared action and a lot of window sills.

These are some of the examples of how the topic of ‘Architecture as Social Integration’ after an intense week of work shaped films by not only capturing footage of the built environment, but almost trying to squeeze words out of bricks and add personal layers to spaces to emphasize the spatial stories.

The premiere

The summer school took place in the cinema and workspaces at the Culture House, Kappelborg in the centre of town. At the end of the week this is also where the final films were screened at a public premiere.

The small cinema was filled with locals and the discussions and debates that followed continued for hours. The films raised questions, suggested answers and along with the weeklong presence of the participants, created a real sense of community, of dedication and mutual learning. A challenging yet supportive social atmosphere with space for sharing.

This small cinema facilitated new connections between people and was yet another space of social integration in the town of Skagen.