Associate AIA, LEED Green Associate

Copenhagen Review - Part 3

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

Continuing along with the focus on architecture projects in Copenhagen, I grouped together those that were developed by one of Denmark's most well-known and celebrated contemporary architects, Bjarke Ingels. Yes, that office has my digital and hand-delivered application package, and I also give a lot of credit to the firm's front office personnel for listening to my story and pointing out that I would have a much better chance at securing a job in Copenhagen if I possessed a Danish Green Card - perhaps that chance encounter and conversation happened for a reason.


8 House

I posted images of this building in my Copenhagen preview from way-back-when, and those images were from the Scandinavia Summer Studio in 2011. That doesn't mean this building wasn't deserving of another visit, especially when it was in close proximity of other buildings I set out to see in Ørestad.

To fully appreciate the unique form of the building, I looked to the internet for an aerial shot - do aerial shots only exist from when a project is under construction? - as well as a floor plan that clearly indicates the layout. It's a figure-8, hence 8 House. The building is made up of over 450 residential units with mixed-use commercial spaces at the ground level including offices, a day care, cafe, and much more. Just a heads-up if you are visiting, there are signs throughout that forbid photographers on the premises during the weekend. The residents must have requested this policy due to architecture nerds, such as myself, coming around and photographing their private homes. I don't blame them!

Architects: Bjarke Ingels Group
Completion Date: 2010


Click to enlarge. Images courtesy of and


Mountain Dwellings

Architects: Bjarke Ingels Group
Completion Date: 2008

Another project in Ørestad, and one that I had included in my Copenhagen preview, when I walk by these projects I just can't help myself to take more pictures. The Mountain Dwellings project is a mixed-use residential building that is recognizable by its perforated metal facade - finished with mountain scenery - and the ascending terraces. The terraces were arranged in a way that one unit's ceiling is another unit's garden and patio.

Click to enlarge. Images courtesy of and


Maritime Youth House

Architects: PLOT (Bjarke Ingles & Julien De Smedt)
Completion Date: June 2004

The Maritime Youth House is a building used to teach the local youth about activities such as sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and other seafaring lessons. This was my first time visiting the building, located outside of Copenhagen and near a beach called Amager Strand, and as a first impression I must say that it's very well designed for its intent. There are several areas for gathering, overlooks that offer great views of the surrounding water, and there was plenty of storage space for vessels. The dominant material used for the project throughout the exterior is treated wood, very simple but elegant in the way the planks create the slopes and transition in function from floors to roofs and decks. Before I wandered around, I made sure to ask one of the adult managers for permission to photograph, as there have been complaints about visitors making noise, especially on the upper decks which cover the interior classrooms. Curse those architecture nerds!

Copenhagen Review - Part 2

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

The next couple of updates will focus on Copenhagen's architecture in which I had the privilege of photographing during several recent stays. I dedicated entire days to making my way around the city to see these wonderful creations in person. In many instances, the buildings were designed by architecture firms that I am applying to, so this will help me understand the architectural expression, design philosophies, and user interaction that was achieved post-construction, and at the same time it helps explain why exactly I am so drawn to this region. It's the architecture, duh!

I am presenting the projects by architecture firm, starting with the firms that have received my job application and are operating right here in Copenhagen. These are by no means in any particular/preferential order... I would accept a job offer in a heartbeat from any of these firms.


Den Blå Planet

Architects: 3XN
Completion Date: March 2013

In order to fully appreciate the form of this project, I searched the internet for aerial shots and found one that was taken during construction, while I also found a perspective floor plan that reveals the interior programs organized within a radial layout. Unfortunately, during the time I was visiting they were closed, so I was only able to capture exterior pictures of this alien-esque structure.

Click image to enlarge


Bella Sky Comwell Hotel

Architects: 3XN
Completion Date: May 2011

The Bella Sky Hotel is located in a rapidly developing area, outside of central Copenhagen, called Ørestad. It's been described as "an architect's playground" because there are some really funky designs going on in this area, which I will highlight more broadly in another blog section. This project in particular is very fascinating in how the towers are leaning ever so precariously, while the facade is developed with a highly eclectic pattern of opaque and transparent triangular facets. One element that stands out in particular is an on-site renewable energy source, a wind turbine, that rotates itself to face the prevailing wind and just does its clean energy thing all day and night.


Royal Danish Playhouse

Architects: Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter
Completion Date: 2008

This little gem might be one of the most overlooked buildings when visitors are traveling on the canal sightseeing boat tours. Along these canal tours are several other buildings that are more recognized and anticipated, such as the Copenhagen Opera House, the Black Diamond, and even Nyhavn, which are all part of a typical canal tour - I recommend first-time visitors to take said boat tour. However, albeit lesser known than other landmarks, this playhouse didn't disappoint when I was able to spend some time at the outdoor cafe on a warm summer afternoon, and I was delighted when I made my way inside for photographs. The outside doesn't look like much, box-on-box basically, but the interior was developed very nicely with an abundance of natural light spilling in and the use of warm materials that, even in a very large space, made things feel cozy. I will admit that I did not care for the metal rod streamers dangling haphazardly from the ceiling, maybe (hopefully) those are only part of a temporary installation, or perhaps they are a lighting feature that comes alive in the evening.


SEB Bank and Pension Headquarters

Architects: Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter
Completion Date: 2010

Another lesser-known project that is also viewable along the harbor is the SEB building. Located very close to Copenhagen's central station and Tivoli Gardens, this might not make it on most people's visiting itinerary but I had to stop and see it because it's a great modern building to behold. When I was visiting on the weekend, the doors were shut and it appeared that the only occupants were a few skateboarders enjoying the extensive landscaped terraces and ramps. The landscaping is quite elegant, including a few curvilinear voids cut out of the canopies to accommodate the growing trees, and a nicely designed plaza that blends concrete forms with natural elements. In regards to the building and its importance, this one received a lot of acclaim for the curvature of the exterior which included curved window glazing - there are no facets in the glazing panels, they were curved to specification with small tolerances and then installed.

Life Update

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

Living in Copenhagen!

I am happy to announce that I have arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark with the worldliest of my worldly possessions, including a good ol' bottle of Jack Daniels, and we will be here for at least the next 2 months. Now that I am settled into my new domicile in Copenhagen, I can finally get back to the travel blog that has been seriously neglected over the last month. For those that have been following me on Facebook, most of you know what is up, but here on my blog I can go into more details about this exciting chapter of my life as I made a temporary move to Copenhagen - hopefully to become a permanent place to call home.

What has kept me so busy over the last month? Well, several things from the Danish Green Card process, preparing for a move to Copenhagen, and on top of that I have been studying and taken 2 divisions of the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE). Let's start with the process of obtaining a Danish Green Card and what that will allow me to do once it has been issued. I posted a previous story on the Travel Blog about how I came across this Green Card and what was required to submit, but since then I have received more information into some of the benefits that will become available. The main objective of receiving the Green Card is the ability to legally work in Denmark for the duration of the card, which can be renewed before it expires. There are a number of benefits associated with the Green Card that I will explain further.


Learning the Language

One incredibly useful benefit of obtaining a Green Card and receiving a CPR Number - equivalent to a Social Security Number in the United States - is that I can take Danish language courses at the Copenhagen Language Center. They offer all kinds of learning levels from beginner to advance, and also courses geared to specific activities such as common vocabulary used in the work place and in social settings. Oh, and it's all FREE if you have a Danish CPR number! On a side note, their logo looks a lot like the Girl Scouts of America logo, hmmm.......


Now I know what some may be thinking, why would you care to learn a language that is difficult and only used in a small country? I did some research, and if the country of Denmark were a US State it would be 21st in population - between Wisconsin and Minnesota - with 5.59 million residents. Danish is a difficult language to learn - as several residents have repeatedly indicated - but learning Danish means that you are able to also communicate with those from Sweden and Norway because the languages are fairly similar and interchangeable, and if you have been following my travel blog you know how much I enjoy traveling the Scandinavian/Nordic countries. The language similarities of the Nordic countries are somewhat comparable to how spoken and written English is similar and different between the United States and United Kingdom. In addition to being able to speak with neighboring countries, I am also hoping to be in Denmark for a long time, so it's kind of important to know the language for daily life. Even though everyone speaks very good English I still need and want to learn Danish. I am hoping that my commitment to learning at least the basics of the language will make me that much more employable than other applicants searching for the same jobs as me. Hey, it's competitive out there!


More Green Card Benefits

Another benefit of the CPR number will be my ability to have a resident's pass for transit that is substantially cheaper than the passes available to tourists. I will be doing most of my commuting on bike, but there will still be times where I need to ride the bus, S train, and Metro train because of inclement weather, convenience, urgency, etc.

One other benefit of a CPR number is I can live in a more permanent residence, and even own a home if I choose. That would only be appropriate to be a homeowner in Denmark before I ever owned one in the United States. There are restrictions to home ownership if you aren't a permanent citizen, such as the amount of homes or real estate one can own, but I'm not exactly here to be a real estate mogul so I'll just keep it simple if/when that time comes.


Just where am I, exactly, and why am I here?

Right now I am only renting a room for 2 months in a very nice area of Copenhagen called Østerbro. For anyone wondering about the pronunciation of the Ø letter, it sounds like "uh" or the "oo" sound in foot, so phonetically one would say Uh-ster-bro. This is only my second day here but it's a pretty quiet neighborhood and also convenient to prominent bus and train lines to the inner city. Oh, and one of my neighbors is a grocery store called Netto that I can just about fall out of my bed and be at their front door - alright neighborhood development and planning! Check out my location on the map, and for those who might not know the location of Denmark, it's north of Germany and south of Sweden and Norway. I didn't always know the location of this country, so I won't judge!

The 2 months that I am here will help me follow up and inquire about employment opportunities, as well as attending architecture functions that are being presented at locations including the Danish Architecture Center and also at the offices galleries of architecture firms, or even on location of official openings for a completed architectural project or installation. These are great opportunities to be seen at these events where I can do some networking and be engaged with the local architecture community. I may even have the opportunity to present my own work at an exhibition that is open for submissions, which could receive recognition, rewards, or more importantly get the attention of prospective employers.

In addition to keeping up with the calendar of the Danish Architecture Center, many of the firms I have applied to have their own calendar of events on their website and post events on Facebook where their work is being presented, or a senior staff member is giving a lecture, among other events that I could attend. For example, one of my dream jobs would be working for Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), and this is what their lecture calendar looks like; BIG Calendar. The firms also post about the competitions that they win, and perhaps I could use that to my advantage to say "Hey so-and-so architecture firm, congratulations on winning that/those lucrative competition(s)! Could my abilities be of service for a contractual period if you are short-staffed for further project development?" All I need is for one place to hire me, even if it's for a temporary period, so they can see how much I have to offer. In the event that I am let go after the contract time is completed, I will be able to put the experience on my resume and hopefully receive a strong reference/recommendation for my next job search.

The underlining reason that I am in Denmark is because of the type of architecture that is happening here. The architecture is creative and sustainable, and the architecture firms utilize a lot of the software and technology that I put myself through hell and debt to learn at the University of Michigan. Keep a look out for future posts on the travel blog that will contain a lot of images and commentary about the city of Copenhagen and its architecture and urban planning.


Architecting Legally

In regards to the activities that have kept me busy this past month, there was none bigger than the two ARE divisions that I was studying for - Construction Documents & Services, and Site Planning & Design. I already received confirmation that I passed CDS - see confirmation image below, woohoo! - but I took SPD only 1 week ago and still waiting for the results. It's a great feeling knowing I passed the first exam in my pursuit to becoming a licensed architect with the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Before I left the US, I understood that there was a testing center in London so I had already planned to start taking the exams while I was staying with my brother who lives fairly close to London.

Now the question arises as to why I am seeking licensure in the United States when I may possibly be living in Denmark for a while, or even permanently. First of all, there is no guarantee that I will remain in Denmark for the rest of my life, and in the event that I return to the United States I want to already be licensed or be as very close to it as possible. There is still a huge portion of AIA members who operate internationally, so it's not something worthless to pursue if you're not working in the United States. In fact, all of the companies I am applying to are doing projects internationally, including in the US and Canada, and there are many crucial items to be aware of for how projects are to be completed, mainly in regards to operational and legal matters from contracts to building codes. A licensed architect knows a great deal of those items, and an international firm would only benefit from having someone staffed who knows how to navigate all of the intricacies for project development in a certain region of the world - in my case that would be the United States and Canada.

Even if I never end up returning to the US, or if a firm has no intention of doing work in the US, the architecture license is still a goal of mine and it's worth having just for understanding the process of project development including building systems, site analysis, contracts, construction documents, responsibilities and legalities, etc. The process is important to know and understand, and to my benefit of knowing the process in one region it is still applicable to other regions in terms of knowledge. Having this distinction as a registered architect with AIA will make me that much more attractive to prospective employers even in this region of the world. I have no problem in putting in the efforts to achieve that milestone because, again... hey, it's competitive out there!

Copenhagen Review - Part 1

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

Career Searching

It has been quite a colossal task to organize all of the content I accumulated during my time in Copenhagen. Most of you probably know that Copenhagen is hands-down my favorite city to travel to, and if you have been following along then you know I am currently in the process of obtaining a Danish Green Card which will allow me to reside, search for work, and work in Denmark once the green card is issued. I am essentially doubling down on Copenhagen with my decision to live and work there because I have been searching for career opportunities in the region and making a major move like this is simply a leap-of-faith. However, Copenhagen offers an unparalleled venue for a young architect to begin a career, grow, develop, learn and be immersed in a culture of architectural creativity, innovation, and sustainability, among other factors.

Once again, priority of visiting all of the cities is to inquire with the architecture firms about possible career opportunities, and to make contacts with the HR personnel or those who make hiring decisions. I did have a chance to talk to several of the offices' personnel who I exchanged business cards with, obtained very important information regarding my options for obtaining a green card, and maybe most importantly some of the front-office personnel were able to hear a little bit of my unique story which should help them recall who I am when I send followup correspondences regarding green card status, residency and legal hiring date. The following list includes the offices that I sought out for career opportunities and all of them are a great match regarding my software knowledge, digital fabrication interests, ambitious design and creativity, and environmental stewardship.

3XN  Strandgade 73, DK-1401 Copenhagen K  +45 7026 2648

ADEPT Architects  Struenseegade 15A, 4., 2200 Copenhagen N  +45 5059 7069

Arkitema Architects  Rued Langgaards Vej 8, DK-2300 Copenhagen S  +45 7011 7011

Bjarke Ingels Group  Kløverbladsgade 56, 2500 Valby, Copenhagen  +45 7221 7227

C.F. Møller  Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 28, 1434 Copenhagen K  +45 3288 7844

Christensen & Co  Bragesgade 10B, DK-2200 Copenhagen N  +45 7244 4440

COBE  Trangravsvej 6, 1436 Copenhagen K  +45 3254 4300

Danielsen Architecture  Vestergade 2b, 4. sal, DK-1456 Copenhagen  +45 3332 3237

Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter  Vesterbrogade 95A, 4th Floor, 1620 Copenhagen V +45 3393 7350

Henning Larsen Architects  Vesterbrogade 76, DK-1620 Copenhagen V  +45 8233 3000

jaja Architects  Heimdalsgade 35, 3. - baghuset, 2200 Copenhagen N  +45 3333 0713

JDS Architects  Kompagnistræde 29, 1208 Copenhagen  +45 3378 1010

Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter  Pilestræde 10, 3. sal, 1112 Copenhagen K  +45 3391 0717

Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects  Njalsgade 17, Pakhus 2, 2300 Copenhagen S  +45 7020 1900

White Arkitekter  Njalsgade 21, 2300 Copenhagen  +45 3332 4491


Church of Our Saviour

With the employment items covered, now it's time to start going through the vast amount of content and beginning with one of the best views in Copenhagen, the Church of Our Saviour, located in Christianshavn. At the top of the church is an exterior spiraling staircase, that for the price of about $5.00, you are able to access and ascend through the bell tower and up the spire. As spectacular and iconic as the church is on the exterior, the church's interior is also very picturesque with the adornment of very ornate statues and intricately carved woodwork. So without further ado, I give you Copenhagen!

As an added bonus, I grabbed some video while scaling the spire. If you're afraid of heights... Beware!

Oslo Review - Part 3

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

The wrap-up for Oslo has a few different elements including some personal thoughts, experiences, and general information. I was given some knowledge and expectations about Oslo before I had arrived, and for everyone who told me that Norway was a very expensive place, they weren't kidding! How expensive are we talking about? Well, on my first day of arrival, I was stuck in my hostel due to some inclement weather so I decided to have a pizza delivered from a place close to the hostel and far from the city. The decision was based on the recommendation to eat far away from the city as possible to save money on the cost of food, plus with the weather I didn't have too many options. If we're going to guess prices on the order, I will give you a hint that the cost of delivery alone was $11.00. The grand total for a large pepperoni and ham pizza was... $50.00 (fifty), that's a '5' with a '0', dollars! I mean, typically I can take a large pizza and make 2 dinners and 1 lunch out of it, but still that's quite pricey. I had to do a little more research on this, so I went for the lowest common denominator and hit a McDonald's for a Big Mac meal - again, this McD's was located far from the city center - and the total for a medium Big Mac meal was roughly $15.00. I should have taken pictures of the receipts for these "big ticket items" for proof, but I did take pictures of the actual infamous $50.00 pizza and $15.00 Big Macs.

I had to learn the hard way about the prices of Norway; however, as prices are very high for everything in this city, I did keep hearing about how wages are very high which not only make up for the high costs but workers are able to save a lot more income than other countries in the region. There was one other trade-off for Oslo and that is public transit is free. I made the mistake of purchasing what was called the "Oslo Pass" - about $80 for a three-day pass - because I thought it was required for riding the trains, trams, and buses, but it turns out that pass only gets you discounted/free entry to museums and tourist attractions, as well as discounts on some food places. In my experience, drivers don't look at any passes as you board, there are no turnstiles or machines scanning for tickets as you enter train stations, and never once did I see any transit employees randomly checking patrons for tickets. I think it's safe to say that based on what I saw and the time I was there - maybe things will change at some other time - public transit is completely free, with only one exception. There are different express trains that leave from the Oslo central station to the airport, which is on the outskirts of the city and you can expect to pay about $30 which is the cheapest and most efficient way of getting to the airport. Below are the maps of the Oslo metro trains and trams, which are great options for getting around the city, and I also included a video of the airport express train called "Flytoget".


Navigating the city was not that difficult, especially when Google Maps helps you plan out your route for using public transit. Since it was my first time in Oslo and I wasn't planning to be in the city very long, I had to learn fast and make the best use of my time which included visiting several architecture firms, exploring nature, and also checking out the great architecture in the city. Norway has its own local currency, so any leftover Swedish money was useless in Norway. The first thing I had to do was withdraw the local currency, Norwegian Krone (NOK), and figure out the conversion to US dollars, which is $1.00 USD = 5.90 NOK. My airport express train ticket cost 170.00 NOK, so with the conversion that comes out to 170/5.9 = ~$29.00 USD.

One interesting trait about Oslo is that it's called "The Largest Village in the World" because it's a city that's spread out very wide and in regards to residential density, even in the city center, there didn't seem to be any very dense pockets of people. The city is spread so far that when I was dozens of miles from the city center and hiking in the mountains, even that area is still part of the city of Oslo. The city itself, as I had mentioned in one of the previous reviews, is a little more rugged and not as polished as other cities, but there is still plenty to enjoy as a visitor from water tours of the harbor and fjords, to many different types of museums, modern and fascinating architecture, and the unique trait of being able to experience the true outdoors not too far from the city. Below are some pictures I took while I was traveling from architecture firms and exploring the city with the short amount of free time that I had.


As an added bonus, I put together a short film of some sights and sounds that I captured as I was exploring the city.

Oslo Review - Part 2

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

I didn't have as many architecture firms to check out as other cities, and even with a short list and short amount of time it was cut even shorter due to inclement weather on arrival and being Easter, most offices were closed on Good Friday and the following Monday. I did hand deliver a couple of applications but a few had to be mailed to the offices that were missed after I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here is the list of Oslo offices that received an application, and it's worth noting that a couple of the firms have offices in New York City that I would not turn down a job offer and return to the US to work.

C.F. Møller  Dronning Mauds Gate 15, 5 e.t., 0250 Oslo  +47 2413 3400

Mad Arkitekter  Øster Elvebakke 7, 0813 Oslo  +47 2220 4030

Snøhetta  Akershusstranda 21, N-0150 Oslo  +47 2415 6060

Space Group  Hausmannsgate 16, 0182 Oslo  +47 2203 8888

White Arkitekter  Møllergata 13, 0179 Oslo  +47 2260 0500


My travels through Oslo would not be complete if I did not do some exploring of the city and experience the highly acclaimed modern architectural projects. In regards to Oslo, there is probably no other project that has garnered more international attention and acclaim than the Oslo Opera House, designed by local architects Snøhetta. I had the privilege of experiencing this building in person during the day and night, and as an added bonus the interior was open for visitors to enter and roam throughout the main lobby area. Here were my initial thoughts as I was photographing this stunning building:

1. For a building that hosts performing arts, it's pretty cool that you are able to wander all over the building as if it were a giant playground.
2. It's simplicity makes it even more elegant and inviting, no ornamentation or anything considered sacred or off-limits, and it's very tranquil to roam and experience the views of the city from different vantage points.
3. Craftsmanship and details are superb, much better than Zaha Hadid's Guangzhou Opera House - do a search for "guangzhou opera house problems", you'll see what I mean.
4. An Oslo based architecture firm named Snøhetta designed this building, their office is just a few miles from this project, and they also have an office in NYC. Fingers crossed on that application submission!


Another building I had to check out was the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, designed by one of my favorite contemporary architects, Renzo Piano. Similar to the the opera house, this project houses fine art but the site is very open to the public to roam through and access public swimming areas, a small beach and lots of open lawn space for lounging in the sun. Since Easter was in full effect and the weather was relatively warm, there were a lot of people out and about just doing leisurely activities on the premises.


The final building I checked out in great detail was one I was not familiar with coming to Oslo, but I found intriguing when I did some searches for modern architecture in the city. The Statoil Headquarters, designed by a-lab, uses very simple forms - basically elongated boxes - but the arrangement of the stacked boxes are truly remarkable especially at the moments of the very dramatic cantilevers.

Oslo Review - Part 1

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

This was my first time visiting Norway, so my expectations of Oslo were mostly based on conversations with several people while I was in Stockholm. I was under the impression that Oslo is a very expensive city - wages do reflect the prices of things - and that Oslo is also considered the largest village on earth. What I found out on my own is that Oslo is probably one of the most diverse cities in Scandinavia, and people from all over the world are probably attracted to the city because of the higher wages that are earned. I was surprised at how many people told me before, during, and after my time in Oslo something along the lines of "You should work in Oslo, you will make a lot more money than anywhere else!" But, since I am not that interested in money and instead I would just like to find a place that offers better quality of life, the wages are not a deal breaker in my search for a place to live.

I discovered both positive and negative aspects of Oslo, and I will admit that it seemed the city wasn't as polished as other Scandinavian cities. What I mean by that is there is an abundance of graffiti on building facades and on the public transit trams and trains. It was also noted that public transportation vehicles appeared to be neglected with maintenance and upgrades. This could be based on the fact that all public transit is completely free, meaning the budget isn't there for improvements, and free things tend to receive a more careless mentality by patrons when it comes to littering, vandalism, or just total lack of consideration for the quality and condition of their public transit fleets. I think another negative aspect is that the attraction of higher earnings might bring in people who's highest/only priority is for themselves to obtain money. The general feeling is that there are an abundance of transient residents who are there to only make money and send it back to where they came from. This certainly promotes diversity, but it just seems like it attracts people who have more regard for money than the city.

Moving away from the negatives, there are many positives about the city that I can discuss in detail on the blog. One thing that sets Oslo apart from other cities is the proximity of outdoor elements relative to the city. I was able to take one of the metro trains right into the mountains where I then went on a 6 hour hike through the gorgeous Norwegian forest. It was a very different venue than my typical excursions through the concrete jungle of the cities, and I really enjoyed myself in the quiet and peaceful surroundings of trees, trails, waterfalls, lakes and streams. My hike began at Sognsvann Lake and ascended in elevation to end at Frognerseteren Restaurant.

Did I mention how peaceful the hike was? Well, I would be lying if I said everything went smoothly because I did find myself in some situations that made me second-guess my trail and I had to consider going a different way - I was following a route somebody took during the summer when there is no snow. Here is a good example of one of those moments.


I was not kidding about a metro train taking you to and from these areas and back to the city. The trains scale the mountains with no problem and offer quite a spectacular view during the ride back down to sea level.

Stockholm Review - Part 3

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

For Part 3 of the Stockholm review, I want to give an all-inclusive summary that covers everything from how I got around the city, to speaking candidly about the components of the city that differ from where I hail from, the United States and more specifically, Tampa, Florida. The last time I was in Sweden I was there for a study abroad studio and it was very educational for its lessons in architecture and urban planning; however, during this recent trip I wanted to dig a little bit deeper and figure out why this region of the globe is so appealing that it makes me want to pack my things and move. The region I am specifically referring to is Scandinavia which includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and (sort of a Nordic cousin) Finland. Finland is a little different in that they were once part of the Russian Empire, so their history and culture has differences from the traditional Nordic countries, but this isn’t about Finland’s history so let’s just move on.

How to get around Stockholm. First, you should get to an ATM, they are called “cash machines” there, withdraw the local currency which is Swedish Krona (SEK), and the conversion to USD is roughly $1.00 = 6.50 SEK. That means if something costs 200 SEK, divide by 6.5 and you are spending about $30. Your next task is to find a help desk or kiosk for the transportation authority, called ‘SL’, and you can find attended kiosks at the airport or at any metro station. If you plan to travel to Stockholm, you have a few options in the type of transit card you can purchase from a 24-hour pass, 3-day and 7-day pass – the time allotment begins after first use and doesn’t begin at time of purchase. All of those passes include unlimited rides on the city metro trains, indicated with a ‘T’ on maps, the commuter trains indicated with a ‘J’ and 'L', and you are also able to enjoy unlimited rides on buses and trams throughout the city. This pass is a must-have for visitors, and it will not put a dent in your wallet as the 7-day pass runs about $46.00, and again I stress for UNLIMITED rides on all city transit, no restrictions or fine-print. The blue SL Access card they issue is yours to keep, which you can then recharge it if your time expires and you can reuse it the next time you visit the city, or you can just keep it as a souvenir as a reminder of how fantastic their public transportation is. I can’t speak for all of Sweden, but Stockholm’s trains are absolutely second-to-none, and not just in the quality of their modern/clean/quite/smooth/reliable/frequent trains, but also in their implementation and accessibility throughout the city. Below is the map of the train networks.

Let’s discuss one very critical component about Stockholm, and that is the construction industry which has been raging on even while other countries suffered through a housing market collapse and unrest in the Middle East. The construction industry in the United States came to a screeching halt for several reasons, and the Arab Spring caused a lot of architecture firms throughout Europe to completely cancel and scrap projects planned for locations such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. But, and this is a HUGE BUT, Sweden was not affected by all of the calamities that struck other countries. How? The answer seems to be several factors, and major ones are that Sweden is one of the highest taxed countries on Earth, while the country also has a commitment to infrastructure. Here’s where the arguments begin on taxing, but consider the fact that the tax money that people pay into their country comes right back to the people. You will hear me say the word ‘infrastructure’ a lot, and what I am referring to is the country’s transportation including railways, buses, trams, and yes even roads – they still drive there – and also includes bridges. We can also discuss infrastructure in the form of power lines, data, water, sewage and other utilities required to connect when there is new development.

Tax money covers these things to be designed, planned, built, operated, maintained, serviced, inspected, cleaned, upgraded, and so on. Now, just those previously mentioned items include an abundance of jobs for many different disciplines, from engineers, architects, city planners, contractors, construction workers, train operators and bus drivers, maintenance crews, cleaning crews, all of the behind-the-scenes workers such as administration, and on and on. You get the picture, infrastructure = jobs, and there is no debating that. Question... do you not like to see your tax money spent on infrastructure that promotes a very healthy job market? I don’t know all the ins and outs of Sweden’s tax structure, but I can tell you from looking at things first hand, there’s no indication that their construction industry is slowing down anytime soon, and that seems like a great use of tax money which in turn puts money into pockets of hard working citizens so they can spend money for goods and services, while all these jobs also means housing needs to be available, and that keeps the housing market turning when people need a place to live. The construction industry just keeps plowing on, as the investment in infrastructure is the foundation for other projects to be constructed based on constant need.

Construction is in demand, meaning architects are in heavy demand, and that’s FANTASTIC news for me, as I am considering a move to a city where my discipline is needed to design the rapidly evolving built environment. Can I get a hallelujah? Okay, still not convinced that tax money should be spent on infrastructure? Consider this, an investment in infrastructure is a tangible item that can be passed on to future generations, and let’s be honest, check out the pictures and train montage and decide who has a better investment coming to them, Swedes with their infrastructure or the United States with an obliterated Iraq? Wow, thanks for the coal for Christmas while the other kids get all kinds of neat things that will greatly benefit those future generations. I think I’m going over to the neighbor’s house to play! Please understand that this isn't meant to bash the US with comparisons, I'm saying this as somebody who has studied architecture and urban planning, and I am a very concerned member of the middle class and a generation that is being handed a built environment that has been seriously neglected and disastrously planned.


I can go on and on about how much well-planned infrastructure is vital to maintain a healthy city, but you don’t have to take my word for it, you can check out the pictures I have provided. During my first tour through Sweden in Summer 2011, there were several images that really struck me as a profound glimpse into Sweden's priorities, such as the one below.

I love to photograph architecture and shooting video of trains and what-not, but to be honest one of the most beautiful sites to behold in any city is… take a guess before I tell you what I enjoy seeing most in a city… okay, you would be right if you guessed that I enjoy seeing cranes and construction sites in a city above all else because those construction sites represent the health of a city’s construction industry, and a reflection of the current economic status. If you want to know how to make a fortune, my advice is to start your own crane business in Sweden and you will bank HUGE when you can’t keep up with the demand for your crane rentals. I would also like to point out that cranes don’t necessarily mean there are a plethora of barely-inhabited luxury high-rises going up. In this region there are more cranes working on things that are going deep into the ground for… what was that word, again… oh yeah “infrastructure” like the underground railways and utilities, but cranes are also being used to construct multi-storey affordable housing and modern iconic buildings that are reshaping the city’s image and appeal for its already lucrative tourism industry. So yeah, Cranes! Beautiful, gorgeous CRANES!

Okay, let’s wrap up the Stockholm series. I had an amazing experience this go-around because I was able to gain some perspective on things that only strengthen and convince me, not deter, from considering this city a possibility for permanent residency – albeit, weather was not one of them. I’m always going to be a Florida boy, and yes Michigan introduced me to the cold, but arriving there mid-April and temperatures were barely reaching 40 while it was also rainy with a Norse wind blowing something fierce… yeah, even with the harsh weather I would still have no problem moving there if an employer were to offer me that highly-sought-after job. The architecture in Sweden may not be the most creative, don’t get me wrong there are some cool projects there, but simplicity and sustainability are bigger considerations than creative and playful designs. That doesn’t mean I would be stuck with only doing projects in Sweden, as most firms I applied to are doing work internationally, but it is very reassuring to know that if projects were to slow down in other regions, Sweden’s healthy economy and unstoppable construction industry will always provide enough work that would make unemployment a very unlikely scenario. To sum up the city's appeal, Stockholm has done a remarkable job of blending modern elements into their built environment while still maintaining the city's cultural identity with the preservation of historical monuments and landmarks - modern infrastructure meets old-world charm.

Operation Copenhagen

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

While on my travel adventure, I didn't want to leave Copenhagen and maybe after a recent revelation I might be able to arrange a permanent return. Most of my friends saw the post on Facebook that I was cancelling my trips to Berlin, Munich and Vienna - I even reduced my stay in the Netherlands and didn't even get over to Amsterdam. The reason for the change in my travel itinerary was because I came across an option for how somebody like myself, searching for work in Denmark, can apply for a Green Card which would allow me to live, search for work and eventually work in the country. I will admit that I actually got lucky with how I came across this revelation, which happened when I made a stop at the architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and talked with a very nice woman in the front office. She explained the basics to the Green Card program and strongly recommended that I look into obtaining one, as it could yield better employment results if I take it upon myself to successfully receive this card. She mentioned that their firm has hired people on a contract period based on need, and even if I have to start out as a contracted employee it would be a very important start for my career in this region. If it wasn't for this chance conversation, I may have continued with the assumption that I would need a company to hire me first and they would then sponsor my work visa. I'm glad the option is available for me to take the initiative, and hopefully it will pay dividends in the form of a job with income.

What is this Green Card all about? Info is HERE, but in order to even be considered for one the applicant has to be eligible for it based on a points system that considers your education level, age, language, work experience and adaptability. I have plenty of points, so there shouldn't be any problems with my application except the waiting - could be 1 to 3 months to process - and the Card can be issued for up to 3 years and can be renewed.

After leaving Copenhagen, I was in The Netherlands when I researched the Green Card process and decided to head back on a 5:30am bus out of Rotterdam - I couldn't leave soon enough! Once I was back in Copenhagen, I went to the Immigration Services building and found out everything I needed for the application, and I also revisited nearly all of the architecture firms to let them know I am pursuing this card. Now most of the firms know my story, and they know that I will be following-up with them once I obtain the Card which will allow me to work immediately. The nice thing about the Green Card is that it's flexible and would allow me to pursue full-time or contracted work, such as if a firm wins some competitions and needs a little extra help for the duration of the project. If a contract ends and I find myself looking for more work, I can still pursue jobs at other firms - there are a lot of them in Copenhagen - and hopefully I can make a good enough impression for one of them to hire me full-time with benefits.



I'm now back at my brother's house in the United Kingdom, and I have assembled all of my documentation which spanned three countries - documents from Florida and Michigan were sent to the UK, documents were obtained in Denmark, and everything will be submitted in the UK. I was under the impression that I could submit everything to the Danish embassy in London, but they didn't have an opening and I will have to travel to Manchester. I was lucky to have scheduled an appointment for next week, which I then immediately booked a round-trip train and 2 nights in a hotel so I can take care of all necessary business. (Un)lucky for me, I was able to get a head start on the application while I was in Copenhagen due to a 4.5 hour delayed plane flight. Here I am working on it at the airport... I didn't want to waste any time!

In the mean time while I submit the application and wait for it to process, I'm going to start searching for rentals in Copenhagen, so if anybody out there knows somebody who has rentals or has any advice on where to search, I'm all ears. I am also planning to study and take some of the ARE sections while I'm in the UK, because they have testing centers here and I can dedicate a lot of time to studying while I'm waiting. I am also going to look into learning Danish to at least get some basics before I head out there. My guess is that I will be in the UK for at least another month, and even if I am still waiting for the Green Card I can live in Denmark for up to 3 months on my passport. I'll keep updates coming on the travel blog along with all of the reviews of the places I have been, which I still have a lot to sort through and write about.

Thank you everyone for the support and encouragement!

We're off to Nether-Netherlands! Amsterdam/Rotterdam Preview

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.





It's time to pack things up here in Copenhagen and hit the road for The Netherlands. Yes, the country uses "The" in their name, because... you might confuse it with some other imitation Netherlands? I don't know, but since I have only been to Amsterdam and not Rotterdam, the preview will focus a little bit more on the city I have been to. Both of the cities have prospective employers to visit, and a very interesting circumstance - completely coincidental - is that I will be arriving to The Netherlands the same day as my brother, Kevin. Crazy, huh? The last time I was in Amsterdam, it was Summer of 2011, and I was with.... you guessed it, Kevin.

The last time we were in Amsterdam we did a little biking, both on a city tour and on our own, as we discovered some of the city's history and realized just how difficult it was to bike over all of the bridges - my knees still cringe at the thought of going over the steep ones from a dead stop or at very low speed. We also discovered how culturally creative the city is, not just from artwork but from the amount of street performers who seem to make an okay living by performing live in plazas, parks, on the streets, wherever. Performers range from musicians, to comedians and even variety shows that combine humor with circus-like performances with props and even audience participation. Last time Kevin got picked from the audience to participate in a street-show as he had to hold a torch, throw swords, and some other activities as instructed by the perfomer. I'll see if I can dig up that video, it's quite amusing.

I'm sorry about getting behind with the Travel Blog reviews of each place I have been to, it's just really a lot of work to go to these places, do what I need to get done, enjoy myself a little, and on top of that get everything I've done organized and onto the blog. Sorry about the excuses, but I should be able to get caught up when I take a bus from Copenhagen to Den Haag (The Hague). Fourteen (14) hours of bus should be plenty of time to get work done, right? Certainly, as long as the websites claim that this bus has internet and power plugs on board, then I should be good to go. Why am I taking a bus? Great question, it was $200 cheaper than flying, a train journey would include multiple transfers, I can get work done along the way, I don't have to stop in Amsterdam and transfer to Den Haag, plus I haven't done a long distance bus ride before, cross that off the bucket list, finally!?!? It could be fine, could be the worst thing ever, I have no idea, I'll let you know when it's over.

I mentioned Den Haag as the destination and that is because my brother is staying at a hotel in that city which is closer to Rotterdam than Amsterdam - hotel is paid for by his work, and I'm not turning down free accommodations! My plan is to get all of Rotterdam taken care of, and maybe a little of Amsterdam until Kevin leaves on Friday, then I will head over to Amsterdam and do some business and sightseeing on my own. Below is the picture gallery of our previous shenanigans in Amsterdam. How many times can you spot the red-headed-stepchild?

Stockholm Review - Part 2

Added on by Douglas Sharpe.

Where did I stay? What did I see?

To answer the first question, I stayed at a hostel called Långholmen which used to be an island prison until 1975. Today, the prison has since been converted into a hostel, hotel, and conference center among other facilities located on the island. I would definitely consider staying at this hostel if I were to visit again, and I have no problem recommending it to anyone who is considering a visit to Stockholm. The price was very reasonable, it was quiet, the staff was very friendly and accommodating, and I found more adults staying here than a typical hostel that sees younger travelers. I stayed in a room with four beds, and must say I was lucky to get roomed with some gentlemen that gave me all kinds of good information about Stockholm and other cities I am planning to visit. Sometimes, you just get lucky with who you're roomed with. The hostel/hotel is located near a bus hub and not that far from the metro train station, Hornstull. I would also like to add that the hostel rooms are located in the hotel's museum area which contained a lot of old artifacts and mannequins dressed in historical attire. Below are some images of the island and inside the Långholmen hostel/museum.

One of my favorite things to do while I was in Stockholm was seeing the city's modern architecture in person. It is a reminder of why I am traveling to these places as an aspiring architect, which is to be working for a company that is doing these types of projects in a city with international significance. I am thoroughly looking forward to the day that I can call one of these places "home" because I would then be afforded the opportunity of challenging my creativity while also drawing inspiration from all of the current and future projects that will adorn these rapidly changing cities. Although I had a much longer list of buildings to check out, I was only able to get to the ones shown below because I ran out of time and several projects were not finished with construction.

The last component of this portion of the review are the images I took while roaming the city. Some days I don't have an exact plan of things to see, so I will just set out to different areas looking for interesting things to photograph, or sometimes I may just stumble upon something while I am traveling from one architecture firm to the next. Below are those pictures that I will just call "Around the City."