Isak Worre Foged - Assistant professor at AAU and partner in AREA

Isak Worre Foged - Assistant professor at AAU and partner in AREA

The PhD gave me a possibility to work on something that was my own – on a whole other level and with more depth than I had experienced earlier. That is really something I would not do without. Furthermore, a reason for me to do a PhD is that it is a sort of “licence” to both doing science and teaching at university level, which are two things that have always been attractive to me.

Based on an interview

What is your typical workday like?

First and foremost, I have the privilege that my working days are very variated. It can be almost full of theoretical what I call “thinking-tasks”, and it can also be very practical, where I for instance attempt to mix concrete, colour, and PCM for the exact right thermal properties or create a new computational module for a design system. Besides that, my work is situated in two places – Copenhagen and Aalborg. In Copenhagen, I am kind of in my own bubble, where I can work very focused, whereas in Aalborg I either work at the university campus or at the Utzon Center with students and my colleagues.

 

What has your career path looked like up until now?

After my PhD, I was employed at AAU as an assistant professor and I was happy to continue working with research and teaching, as I feel strongly about both of them. In that way, I was also able to work with some of the same topics of work that I have started throughout my PhD. Furthermore, it gave me the chance to link to many other researchers outside of Aalborg University, partly because of my development of Utzon(x) (research projects, international series of lectures, and symposia at the Utzon Center), where people come from outside to join in on specific studies and questions we raise. At the same time, I have co-founded my own research based studio, AREA, where I work to link research and practice, in the limited timeframe available. We have found that it is a very fruitful constellation in terms of connecting and exploring research questions, and the potential implementation in the built fabric. Again, this creates a very good synergy and a variated work day.

 

How close is your current career to the ideas and dreams you had as a PhD fellow at AAU?

I have never really looked at where I wanted to be, but what I really wanted to work with. During my master and afterwards during my two years as a research assistant, I discovered some topics that I thought needed further scientific development, especially in relation to methodology and theoretical foundation for the applied science I was doing. The best way I could work with these topics was to stay at AAU. But it has ended up opening other doors as well, for instance in relation to other academic institutions and professional practice partners. From my studies and experience with impact, it becomes clear that the cross fertilisation between research and practice holds the largest potential for real advancements.

 

How have you made use of you PhD education, and which of your PhD competences have been most important to you?

I think the ability to switch between working with something highly theoretical, such as different philosophers influencing my field, on the one hand, and to be able to collaborate on something completely specific with material manufactures one the other hand. In that way there is a large span. The good and unique thing about doing a PhD is that you have the time to take out a full day to read about Heidegger, or you can spend three months getting to know how to build a specific computational model for simulating thermal sensations. It is actually difficult for me to see that one can get such an extensive knowledge on a specific topic in any other ways. Of course, I use that knowledge every day in my work in the university, and when exploring ideas through AREA. I think I make use of all the constituent elements that my PhD was built on, because I am working theoretically as well as practically. I think if I should mention one specific – and probably the most important – competence from my PhD time, it would be the ability to merge theory, methods, and practice together to the science of architecture.

 

What do you remember most from your PhD studies?

The joy of dedicating an entire week to read something. I repeat myself, but sufficient time for something is a real privilege. My position now has much more obligations than back then, and I really enjoyed the time I had to focus on one specific thing. I also remember the times where an experiment went really well – or really bad. Especially the successes of making things work. Then I also have great memories from my semester in New York at Columbia University, which was a very important time for me, not only academically, but also in the sense of getting out of my own educational institution and looking at my project a bit from the outside.

 

What is your best memory from AAU?

I am still at AAU – and enjoying it. Actually, I have been here for about 16 years! I think what I remember to be the biggest singular moment was handing in my master’s thesis. It was a culmination of long and hard work and felt much more like something coming to an end than when I handed in my PhD, which was more of an accelerator to more work.

 

Is there a teacher/colleague from AAU you remember especially, and why?

I must say Mads Brath. He is a very dear colleague of mine and we have a very good synergy in our collaboration - a collaboration which has already lasted for about 7-8 years! 

 

Why did you decide to do a PhD, and would you have chosen differently if you were to do it today?

The PhD gave me a possibility to work on something that was my own – on a whole other level and with more depth than I had experienced earlier. That is really something I would not do without. Furthermore, a reason for me to do a PhD is that it is a sort of “licence” to both doing science and teaching at university level, which are two things that have always been attractive to me.

 

What are your dreams for the future?

I am very excited and energized to continue working with the things that I do right now. So, in the future I must see where it is possible for me to keep doing that. Right now, I think my best option is exactly the combination of working at the university, having a small studio, and having some links to the industry and other external stakeholders in relation to specific projects.

 

Anything else you would like to add?

If you get the possibility to do a PhD, I think you should see it as a gift – a gift given to you from others. If you ask me, this opportunity should result in high ambitions and my impression is that 99 percent of all PhD students are both very conscientious and ambitious about their work.

 

About you

Place of birth: Odense

Nationality: Danish

Current employment: Assistant professor at AAU and partner in AREA

MA programme and university: MSc.Eng.Arch, Aalborg University, 2008

MA programme and university: M.Arch., International University of Catalunya, 2009

Department at AAU: Institute of Architecture

Campus: Aalborg

Year of graduation: 2008 (AAU), 2009 (UIC)

Title of PhD dissertation: 'Environmental Tectonics - Matter Based Architectural Computation, 2015