Danish Exchange for Opera House Scholars

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Nick Werrett was one of only five Australian recipients of the 2014 MADE scholarship, giving him the opportunity to spend six weeks in Copenhagen earlier this year on a multidisciplinary cultural exchange.

Launched at the Opera House's 40th Anniversary in October last year, the Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange (MADE) is a tertiary student exchange program that reflects the role of Jorn Utzon in the design and construction of the Opera House.

In January, Nick began the trip with a visit to Jorn Utzon's iconic house, Can Lis, in Mallorca. Normally staying there is exclusive to practicing architects and requires an application, but the MADE scholars had the unique opportunity to spend a week there getting to know each other.

Nick Werrett and other MADE Scholars at Can Lis, Mallorca

Four of the scholars at Can Lis. From left: Alasdair Mott (University of Sydney), Juliane Lipman (UNSW), Nick Werrett (UON) and Nina Tory-Henderson (University of Sydney).

The students were then hosted by COBE, a Danish Architecture firm in Copenhagen, where they worked for six weeks on a design project for a local development.

"Our project was to design the new development for a warehouse called Packhouse 54 in the Nordhavnen region, which is a major new urban revitalisation development in Copenhagen," Nick said.

"We came up with a concept of the general form of how the building could be developed and what new forms could be added and we really tried to envisage the future use."

This, Nick explains, was a challenging project as the site is currently industrial waste so they had to work purely off COBE's master plan for the area.

"You had to really look at the plans and think about what it is now and what it will be and how this building will transition."

Being the only engineering student in the group, Nick was able to give unique insight into the project and have a chance to experience the environment of an Architecture firm first hand.

"One of the strongest things about this exchange is the idea that you have engineering and architecture and landscape architecture students working from the beginning of a design problem as opposed to later on.

"It's so different to anything that you've done before as a student or even that you might do; it's very experimental."

Engineering firms ARUP and Steenson Varming, both of which were involved originally with the Opera House, also mentored the students.

During the six weeks the scholars toured Copenhagen to view more of Jorn Utzon's work; the house he designed for himself in Hellebæk, the Basværd Church, three Fredensborg houses and the Kingo houses.

The students were taken to the Utzon Center in Aalborg by some of the previous MADE scholars, where they were able to meet Jorn' Utzons son, Jan.

"You very much get welcomed into the MADE family. The Danish Alumni are a really close group of people and they take care of you when you're over there."

Nick is now in his fourth year of a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree and is looking forward to showing the Danish students around Australia when they arrive for their exchange in July.

Applications for this years' MADE scholarships are NOW OPEN until 9th July 2015, visit the website for more details.