"A field of tension between Technology, Society and Aesthetics"

– Dean Fredrik Shetelig's speech to new students - August 13, 2013

Dean Fredrik Shetelig and his staff. Photo: NTNU/Ole Tolstad

Dear all new students


Why are you here?
You are not here for us to fill you up!!
You are not here to be told what to do!!
You are not here just for listening to us and say "yes".  
You are here for exploring new territories and breaking your own limitations.  
Digging into new knowledge and training yourself to master new skills - to become professionals.
You cant talk it. You have to do it.

As the avant guarde rock composer Frank Zappa said: "to talk about music is like dancing about architecture". You have to do it: act and make, construct and create.
Still, we will talk a lot together: discussing possibilities, criticizing projects, forming questions, as a lot of our teaching is based on dialogue.

You are here on a brief journey for just 2, 3 or 5 years that might become the most important years in your life.  Years that might change you - if you let it happen and take charge of your own development and transformation.
Or you could sleep through the whole thing just to get a degree, but that becomes very boring for both you and us and a waste of invested energy on both parts.
Not sustainable at all.

So we demand something of you: work hard and push yourself outside the comfort zone.  Inside the comfort zone you will only experience repetition, boredom and disengagement. Outside the comfort zone you will be sometimes frustrated, sometimes happy but always in the position of learning.  
So what does this mean: "To be outside the comfort zone"?
It means at least one thing: make mistakes, test things out, make glorious failures and take some risk, experiment!!  

It does not have to be totally chaotic;
A quote on experimentation you might hear from one of our teachers is: "Experimentation is this: you take something, you do something to it, observe, then you do it again, differently"
We will be around here to assist you to push you and support you.  And you will make things neither you, nor we, have ever seen before.

I agree very much with Mark Wigley, dean at the architecture school of Columbia, New York, who says:
"Education is all about trust.  The best teachers embrace the future by trusting the student, supporting the growth of something that cannot be seen yet, an emergent sensibility that cannot be judged by contemporary standards", and he continues "Education becomes a form of optimism that gives our field a future by trusting the students to see, think and do things we cannot." End quote.  

So our job is to trust you and take seriously what you bring to us.  
Your own contribution is actually one of three basic components in your education.  Your questions, your research, your creativity, your critique of society.

The second third is: this faculty with our structure, competence and research.  Our research spans from pure artistic research and investigations in aesthetic questions in fine art and architecture to technological research in developing sustainable built environment for the future. Our role in this game is to be a training facility for your development.  

The last third is: needs, demands and problems in society: questions yet unasked.
So we are very eager to get to know you and respond to your ways of dealing with the world – to change it for the better.  You might know the motto of NTNU: Knowledge for a better world.  A phrase that could sound hollow if you don't mean it, but we truly mean it, the whole of NTNU means it, and that makes it both difficult and interesting.

So how will we (you and us) contribute to a change for the better in the world?
Our core values are embedded in the tension between three elements:  technology, society and aesthetics.

Technology is a vital part of NTNU's mail profile and so also for our faculty.  Technology allows things to work smooth and efficient, better than without, faster and easier than without - sometimes too fast and easy. And sometimes without a broad integration in common needs, "fast and easy" just for a few of us.  So we must develop a deep understanding and empathy for the global society.  Our disciplines have a strong impact on how people live their lives.  Planners and developers shape the overall structure, architects organize space as a framework for a good living and fine artist give us unique aesthetic statements that allows for a feeling of meaning.  Aesthetics is actually deeply connected with ethics.  Aesthetics joins us also in how we work and make objects, buildings and plans by combining very different elements in a whole form by aesthetic synthesis.

If this sounds a little mystic, don't be alarmed: you will get to train a lot on these things.  And by the way: it IS a little mysterious: how a vague idea suddenly becomes something solid.  Mysterious indeed. It just takes a lot of work. 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration!

We also aspire to live up to the motto: Knowledge for a better world by the profile of our study programs:

  • Quality and sustainability in development of real estate, usability  and maintenance is developed in our master program for real estate and facilities management
  • The immense need of qualified planning professionals in all municipalities, cities and consultancies in Norway is developed in the master program for Physical Planning
  • Inequality and lack of influence on how your city and environment supports your life in the south by planning "bottom up" is developed in the master program on Urban Ecological Planning.
  • The pressing issues of sustainable architecture focused on energy and environment is developed in the master program for Sustainable architecture
  • The everlasting need for sustainable architecture in general, how buildings establishes a spatial framework for how we live our lives, how we meet, how we get inspiration, how we work together is developed in the master program on Architecture.
  • The importance for us to be confronted with unique individual perceptions and aesthetic statements totally outside the machinery of production and expectation is handled in the bachelor program for Fine Art and the new international master in Fine Art.

So again; we are looking very much forward to get to know you, to push you, to be pushed by you and experience how you change us.  You will also contribute to changes in each other and make friends that will last a lifetime.  Welcome to our faculty. 

Prof. Fredrik Shetelig
Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art