ArkiTours consulting offers tailor-made study trips for architecture and construction professionals, to ongoing and completed urban development projects in some of Europe’s most forward-thinking cities. On the tours, groups of 12 to 150 professionals are guided in the latest trends and building materials, and access behind-the-scenes knowledge and new industry contacts, to help them learn and find inspiration for their future business development.

In 2007, ArkiTours Consulting began organising trips to Peter Zumthor’s acclaimed 1996 mountainside thermal bathhouse, The Theme Vals, in Basel, Switzerland. “Danish architecture studios wanted to visit the big names. We organised trips to Marseille to see Le Corbusier, then we started visiting Amsterdam and Rotterdam – renowned architecture cities,” explains the founder Dorte Augustenborg. Today, ArkiTours has expanded, organising reconnaissance missions for architecture firms and engineers to destinations all over Europe.

“It’s a type of further education, out in the field,” explains Augustenborg. “You’ll go behind-the-scenes – inside the buildings, be it power plants or private homes – and get guided tours conducted by local architecture studios. You might hear presentations from timber producers at their manufacturing plants or meet a Dutch design firm that works exclusively with local rainfall diversion projects.”

A trained architect herself, Augustenborg is a specialist in advising clients on the latest international architecture and urban development projects. At her side is business partner and art historian Pia Thomsen, an expert on trends in climate-neutral construction, who ensures that the green agenda is woven into every tour.

The pair offer their combined knowledge and enthusiasm from the very first meeting and throughout the detailed planning phase – taking care of the itinerary, flights and even restaurants during the trip. “We really listen to the needs of our clients. What are they interested in and what will be at the forefront of their work in the next ten years?” says Thomsen.

ArkiTours: Get behind the scenes with a professional architecture study trip

Konditaget Lüders, Copenhagen. Photo: Mellanie Gandø

A bespoke itinerary

ArkiTours programmes are grounded in three basic themes: New Building Materials, Sustainable City Development, and Communities and the Built Environment. “Trips that examine new building materials often centre on wood and Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) – a type of timber composite as strong as concrete. The legislation around wood construction is evolving, so we offer visits to very progressive, large-scale timber projects – in Sweden, for example,” explains Thomsen. Elsewhere, ArkiTours visits sites that make use of recycled materials – such as old bricks and roof tiles – and sustainable concrete.

ArkiTours: Get behind the scenes with a professional architecture study trip

Werkraum Warteck, Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel

The Sustainable City Development theme runs through every ArkiTours trip. “From hospitals and schools to private or public housing – all our clients are interested in how you can build sustainably, with minimal CO2 emissions,” says Thomsen. ArkiTours’ approach is comprehensive and integrative, ranging from energy efficiency and green materials to public transport and community management. “There are many parameters in sustainability,” says Thomsen. “The DGNB system is an assessment of the sustainability of a building. It’s based on a holistic understanding of construction in which environment, economy and social conditions are given equal weight. We offer a study tour specifically about DGNB-certified projects in the Copenhagen region.”

Meanwhile, the theme Communities and the Built Environment explores new ways of living together, via innovations in public and private housing projects in cities like Amsterdam, Vienna and Copenhagen. These programmes might focus on restoration and transformation of large residential areas, new types of apartment blocks, recreational areas and biodiversity. “People are becoming more interested in how to create communities in dense urban environments,” explains Thomsen. “There is a big demand for this kind of expertise amongst stakeholders and the boards of housing companies.”

ArkiTours: Get behind the scenes with a professional architecture study trip

Housing collective, Tinggården, Herfølge. Photo: August Fischer

Experts on construction trends

Both Thomsen and Augustenborg have their ear to the ground when it comes to architectural trends – particularly in Scandinavia. “The drive for more urban community is very prevalent – akin to a 1970s-style model in which people live close together, but with more social spaces and urban gardens around. People don’t want to live in boring boxes. In Norway they’re building unique residences for divorced families, in which the adults live separately, but either side of a wall, so the children don’t have to move every week. It’s very experimental,” says Augustenborg.

Other key trends on their radar are the ‘mixed city’, and sustainability. “When you’re transforming old docklands or industrial areas into a new city district, people dream of the ‘mixed city’, with small businesses, workshops, schools, residences and people at home during the day. It’s an active district, not simply a commuter zone or dead residential area,” says Thomsen.

Some 12,000 CEOs, directors and employees have already travelled with ArkiTours Consulting, but 2023 will be a particularly exciting year, when Copenhagen is named UNESCO World Capital of Architecture. Presenting their home city’s state-of-the-art architecture to international visitors, Augustenborg and Thomsen will be in their element. Ambitious projects need ambitious people, and here are two of those people.

ArkiTours: Get behind the scenes with a professional architecture study trip

Dorte Augustenborg and Pia Thomsen at Søfartsmuseet in Helsingør, designed by BIG Architects. Photo: Hans Høite Augustenborg

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