Ahearn ’11 to Study in Copenhagen – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Ahearn ’11 to Study in Copenhagen

Hobart architecture student Ben Ahearn ’11 participated in the Colleges’ Copenhagen, Denmark, program last fall and it changed the way he sees, thinks about and envisions design – and his future.  His time in Denmark was spent in classes and touring the area, developing a sketchbook and opening his eyes to new possibilities – particularly in the area of sustainable design. With the help of a competitive Charles H. Salisbury Summer International Internship Stipend Award, Ahearn will return this summer to work at and learn from one of the most forward-thinking firms in the city, Force 4 Architects. Ahearn is one of three students to receive this annual award.

“They do a lot of work for competitions, exploring new ideas and pushing boundaries – work that really excites me,” says Ahearn. He also intends to enroll in night language classes to help develop his verbal and written skills.

Outside work and school hours, he has planned a number of excursions to learn more about sustainable design and Danish culture. One trip will be to Samso Island, a 100 percent renewable energy community nicknamed “Energy Island.” Another innovation he’ll research is the Copenhagen district heating system.  Among the world’s largest, oldest and most successful of such programs, it supplies 97 percent of the city with clean, reliable and affordable heating.  

“It’s important to give students an international perspective on design and how design is a part of everyday life,” explains Kirin Makker, assistant professor of architecture. “It’s not just about the technology of green architecture, but the way it interfaces with design and the belief that design can positively change the way people live, use their resources, and build. This will be a tremendously valuable experience for Ben.”

Ahearn has taken the Design Studio 2 with Makker this semester and also works as her design studio critic in Design Studio 1 this semester.

Makker notes what Ahearn learns in Denmark will also benefit architecture students back at the Colleges as he’ll be able to share what he’s learned in courses over the next academic year.

When he first arrived at Hobart, Ahearn wasn’t set on majoring in architecture. “There are architects in the family and I always loved building with Legos® and in the workshop so I knew it was a possibility,” he explains. He took an introductory course in architecture and, at the same time, geoscience and the combination sparked in him an interest in architecture with a sustainable and environmental aspect to it. He is now an architecture major with an environmental studies and art double-minor.

In addition to looking forward to his immersion in the world of European design, Ahearn is also eager to once again be part of a culture with which he so readily identified last fall, yet experience it in a very different way.

“I’m really looking forward to returning, visiting my former host family and living in that culture again,” he says. “My personality meshes with that of the Danes, and I am expecting to experience different views and social norms by living with a Danish roommate. I will also be living a more culturally immersed lifestyle, where I will not have the option of retreating to the comfort of my American friends from Danish Institute for Study Abroad.”