Amina Berrouag

Interview with exchange student from Arkitektskolen Aarhus.
Tell us which school you are from and what you are studying.

I am from L’école Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris La Villette studying architecture in my first year of the masters program. 

What made you come to Aarhus to study?

First I just wanted to go to Denmark or any Scandinavian country because I needed to see something different in Europe. The way we live in France is completely different. It also makes things easier when everyone here speaks perfect English.

While I was doing my choice for this exchange; I heard from other students and a Danish architect living in Paris that the school in Aarhus was one of the best in the country.  Plus, no one knew about this city in my school so I was the only one asking for it!

What projects are you working on at your studio in school?

I’m working on a project where I am developing a concept for housing and landscape design in the area of West Jutland called Ringkobing K.  This a new part of town that’s going through a transformation where there will be many future developments taking place, especially housing for new incoming residents. 

In this project I’m trying to deal with the relation between the existing city and the natural landscape fields around it creating a new environment for habitation. Within this landscape there are several natural and wildlife ecosystems that have inspired my design for the site.  I wanted to create a wildlife park that could exist with the new incoming building developments.  This park would create an atmosphere where residents could enjoy the benefit of living within a natural environment.

Where do you get inspiration from for your designs?

My inspiration comes from interactions with people and the environment.  Whenever I go outside or visit a new place, I try to pay attention to different details within that setting and draw inspiration from it.  For example, I try to pay attention to: different façade types on buildings, different patterns on floors or streets, and configurations of colors within the cityscape.

It’s very difficult because I can be inspired by an art exhibition as much as someone’s dress or a nice time I have in a café. It is more about how I feel in different situations, I don’t really look for inspiration I just try to remember how I felt in contact with a color, a material, a space, an object, a sound.

I would say I get my inspiration by going out, visiting new places and trying to be aware of what is going on around me.
How do you think architecture can influence people’s lives?

I really think that the way we behave and feel is influenced by the architecture around us. Our homes, the offices we work at, and the places we go for leisure are all designed specifically to make us feel a certain way. 

The way we behave is influenced by the way we feel and for me architecture is essential in the way we feel every day at home, at work, in the street, everything matters: sizes, lights, circulations, and colors. All these can make us feel comfortable, at ease or, claustrophobic, and lost.

For me architecture is not about who made the biggest and craziest building but who succeeded in creating a space that is coherent with what is necessary for a specific condition.

What kind of people have you met in Aarhus and how have they influenced your time in the city?

Being at the architecture school I was exposed to a variety of students with various backgrounds.  These individuals not only helped me discover Aarhus but also let me into their lives where I found out more about their life and the countries that they come from.  The great thing that we have in this school is that there are a lot of foreigners mixed with Danish students all the time.  I am glad to have met very different kinds of people from such places as: Australia, Indonesia, Israel, America, Norway, Iceland, etc …

I was always learning and discovering new things every day and not only about Denmark or Aarhus.

Which drink was the most interesting you had in Aarhus? 

At the Christmas party I drank a lot of snaps but I will never do that again.

Do you have a funny story you can tell us when you were in Aarhus?
I don’t really know if it is that funny but since I arrived people always tried to tell me French words they know so I’ve heard a lot of “baguette, madame, oui oui!”.

But once, I was in a bar with my parents when they were visiting me and some guys heard we were French. You should have seen my mother’s face when the guy said, “I know some French words too: Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” Which you may know means, “Do you want to have sex with me?” He didn’t even know what it meant. I think that saved him from a slap.

What is your favorite place to go to when you want to have a good time?
I guess I can say I have been a lot at Lecoq and RisRas like every other student in architecture school here but also Shen Mao because it is really something that I have never seen in Paris yet. It is a mixture of a bar, a club, and there is a tennis table! I can’t promise great music every night but I always had a good time with friends there and it is open very late.ut I still have to say I enjoyed a lot making new friends and living in a great place here. Aarhus offers a lot of nice apartments and shared houses with gardens to live within. Through these personal interactions I got a sneak peak into the lives of the residents of Aarhus.
Was there ever a time where the city or something that happened within it surprised you?

I have been surprised by the beautiful natural environment so close to the city like the Risskov forest, the beaches, the deer park which I was laughing at first but was really amazing. First I was just thinking that Aarhus was a very small city but it actually offers a lot of nice things more than clubs, restaurants and museums.

Another great place I found out by chance was the area of Godsbanen, an old train yard where a community of artists are living and making cool projects.  This place has an old industrial feeling to it and surrounded by nature it makes you feel like you are in an island of the city. 

What kind of advice would you give to future students who want to come to Aarhus and study?

I would say Aarhus is a small city, but go out as much as possible and visit new places. There are a lot of great things that are hidden here. Above all don’t be afraid of a long and very cold winter like I was, spring is wonderful and makes Aarhus become a totally different city. It is very easy to get bored in the wintertime, but that’s when you should go out to the different bars and cafes where you meet new people.  In the spring and summer there are so many events and places to see that you will never be lonely.

Did you meet any interesting people during your stay in Aarhus?

Yes a lot. I can’t tell you about all of them but I’ll try to choose. A few good friends as Ingunn a girl from Norway who helped me discover the city since I arrived, Nadav the sweetest and most generous Israeli guy I have ever met, Mads Thorlstrup a teacher who knows everything, Levi and Matthias raising babies while doing their studies (never happens in Paris) and Tom, Mark and Maia and a lot of other people.

That is the great thing about this exchange I was always meeting great new people.

What will you do after you leave Aarhus?

I am going back to my life in Paris, to finish my masters and who knows what will happen next. I am not planning anything yet.  After school I hope to have a job where I can support myself and practice architecture.  I enjoy my city of Paris but I am willing to explore other opportunities where there is interesting architecture happening. 

What is one thing you learned in Aarhus that you could apply to your future life in Paris ?

Always stay open to new interactions; these may lead you to places where you have never been.