Stories & Projects

Vertical Workshop: Urban Networks


Every academic year at UMA starts with a vertical workshop that engages all students and staff. This year, the theme was Urban Networks and the idea was to investigate urban space from within. To find their paths of investigation, the students threw cooked spaghettis randomly on a map of Umeå. The task was to explore social-, cultural-, ecological-, economic-, initiatives/structures/networks within that path, created by the spaghetti. By moving in this unconventional way, the students had to challenge their preconceived notions and a broader understanding of the path could take place.

Every academic year at UMA starts with a vertical workshop that engages all students and staff. This year's vertical workshop Urban Networks followed up on the two last year's workshops where students investigated urban commons in 2015 and urban explorations in 2016. The workshop Urban Common's primary focus was the precarious situation regarding EU-migrants in Umeå. The Vertical Workshop Urban Explorations took the social perspectives as a starting point to understand how existing relationships can help to mobilize sustainable urban development.

This year, the theme was Urban Networks and the idea was to keep on investigating urban space from within. In Norrland and Umeå there has been a renewal of civic movements where various collective initiatives have emerged during the last years. These initiatives highlights the distribution of resources, responding to deficiencies/cutbacks in the welfare systems and act against the privatization of public resources and spaces. During the workshop Urban Networks the students explored the possibilities of interlinking stories, narratives, social groups and initiatives. These groups would include community based social networks, collaboration between local communities, actors and various community based initiatives.

Introdag Vertikal Workshop Umafoto Johannes Samuelsson 2017 IMG 4950

Students throwing cooked spaghetti on a map of Umeå. Photographer: Johannes Samuelsson

To find their paths of investigation, the students threw cooked spaghettis randomly on a map of Umeå. The task was to explore social-, cultural-, ecological-, economic-, initiatives/structures/networks within that path, created by the spaghetti. By moving in this unconventional way, the students had to challenge their preconceived notions and a broader understanding of the path could take place.



You are to make a short film, a poster and a brief descriptive text together with a group of students from the different years at UMA and each group will have one allocated tutor. During the workshop there will be a comprehensive program of lectures, starting with the basic tools for filmmaking followed by a number of lectures as theoretical input and inspiration. At the end of the course we will screen all the films and watch them together followed by discussions in smaller groups. The screening will be followed by an event that is open to the public to celebrate your accomplished work and the start of the semester.

We would like you to develop an interest in the social relationships that already exist in a place and how situations and networks on your path relates to other situations - local or global. The aim of this workshop is not to make the perfect film but rather to work with a path, which you have not chosen yourself, and to focus on the networks within and connected to that path. You can make a documentary film, a fictional story or an interview film that departs from the encounter on site or a film using still images and text. Feel free to follow your process and make the film in accordance with your findings and ideas.


Where, how and why

You will be allocated a place at random on a map of Umeå to allow you to explore unexpected meetings and reveal relations. The random spaghetti line will be your path and starting point to explore during the vertical workshop.

To challenge some of the architectural methods we will continue to work with film as a medium. As future architects and city planners you will find that communicating your ideas is an important part of your job. By learning how to use video and storytelling you add another way of communication to your toolbox. Even if you end up hiring an external professional for video work in the future, by knowing at least the basics of how the medium can be used you can set clear goals for the project. All communication is storytelling of some sort, and the more languages you know the more vivid your stories will become.

A proposed working process is described on the following pages. A set of basic "research tools" will be introduced to you. The tools will be useful, both during the workshop and in future projects and work. 

The importance of working together and the sharing of knowledge within the group will be highlighted during this workshop where each group will be assigned one tutorial concerning group dynamics.



Movie: maximum length 5 minutes, English subtitles/voice over or similar. Format: H.264 Preset: Vimeo 1080p HD (or Vimeo 720p HD if you have filmed everything in that resolution).

Movie poster: vertical A1 format including; the name of students involved, the UMA logo, one image/ photo/drawing representing the film, a title and a 100 word descriptive text.

Release form: Due to the open screening of the films at UMA we ask that you get everyone whom you interview to sign a release form we've prepared. The university needs to know that they are allowed to use the resulting video in public screenings or online. Having a release form might seem overkill, but it is good practice and standard for documentarists, so please make sure you have these - and file them away in one place for safekeeping!


Work process

During the first week of the workshop, the students researched their allocated path and made their first explorations on site. They interviewed people and collected their own experiences. They also discussed what kind of movie would be suitable for telling the story of their site. With the guidance of tutors from different fields such as architecture, art and filmmaking - the students was presented with new tool sets suitable for telling the story of urban networks through film.

The second week they went even deeper into the tool set of filmmaking as they had to translate their collected material into an edited piece of film. They made storyboards, used programs for editing, made subtitles, decided on a title for the film and created a poster.

Through a series of lectures on collective and social engagement that ranged from local perspectives to global structures, the foundation was laid for a greater and more complex understanding of the theme.

Presentation: Open film screening

The public film screening Urban Networks Umeå - The Narrative of a Cooked Spaghetti was the celebration and presentation of the films produced during the workshop. The film screening was held at Umeå School of Architecture, on Friday the 8th of September 2017, 16:00 - 18:00.

The event was opened with a talk by rector Ana Betancour and the public was invited to mingle and watch the screening of 20 short films about the 20 randomly chosen paths of Umeå. Every film was unique depending on the findings along the paths, the people connected to it and the networks found.


List of lectures held during the workshop

URBAN NETWORKS by Ana Betancour

August 28th, 13 PM

Ana Betancour is rector of Umeå School of Architecture and professor in Architecture. Her lecture introduced the vertical workshop, and it's topic Urban Networks. The lecture was a starting point in a critical discussion on sustainable architecture guiding the subject through different examples of social perspectives.



August 29th, 9 AM

Bautafilm AB is an award-winning production company based in the north of Sweden. Bautafilm was founded in 2011 by four creatively well-experienced people with the goal to become an important progressive production company that co-operates with the best in northern Europe. They produce fiction and documentaries. Their lecture laid the foundation on filmmaking and visual communication.



August 29th, 10 AM

The regional divisions in Sweden are getting sharper. Population growth and new jobs are concentrated to the Stockholm region and a couple of other cities. Large parts of Sweden are moving in the opposite direction and some rural areas are to survive. On the basis of his new book "Stockholm, städerna och resten" the journalist Arne Muller described this process and the forces that can explain it.



August 29th, 15 PM

Professor Robert Mull is our Adjunct Professor here at Umeå School of Architecture. Robert is an Architect, educator and activist and a co-founder of the NATO group.  He is professor of architecture and design at the University of Brighton, a visiting professor here and in Mosco and a leader of the Free Unit. He was formerly director of architecture and dean of The Cass. His lecture discussed the role and responsibilities of architects, students and architectural education in areas subject to change and deprivation. Robert showed socially engaged projects that worked with contexts as diverse as London, West Belfast and Russia. He also shared the architectural, professional and ethical issues raised by his current involvement in the refugee crises in Europe, including the recently demolished refugee camp in Calais known as "The Jungle" and now in the farm camps of Izmir.



August 30th, 9 AM

Infoga is a collective projective/ investigative architectural practice/platform based in Umeå and initiated by Julia Samberg, Maja Hallén and Nina Larsson whilst they were still master students at UMA. Infoga identifies a need for spaces and processes that encourages people to interact, share experiences and stories with each other. Spaces and processes that support collective initiatives and collaborations, thereby strengthening democracy and resilience. Through common action, sharing of knowledge and production of desires, new types of multifaceted communities could be made, supported and maintained. Common making as a vehicle for change through reactivating cultures of togetherness. For a more reasonable world.


VÄN I UMEÅ by Åsa Norin & Bjerre Ljungberg

August 30th, 9.30 AM

Åsa Norin, social worker and a deacon at campus is the initiator and coordinator of Vän i Umeå. She held a lecture together with volunteer Bjerre Ljungberg, language teacher at Komvux, about the network consisting of people originating from many different countries and with a wish to get to know each other. Through Vän i Umeå people and families can be matched for friendship. A great number of activities take place every week, for example: football, beach volleyball, running, baking, learning how to ride a bike, cultivation, language cafés, excursions, parties - you name it! Vän i Umeå wishes through these meetings to contribute to an open and friendly city where everybody feels at home.



August 31th, 9 AM

Maxim is a PhD student at Umeå School of Business and Economics concerned with ecological impact of human activities. His doctoral research focuses on grassroots innovations for social-ecological resilience. In particular, he looks into creative processes behind permaculture and forest garden initiatives. In his lecture, he shared findings from his ongoing study on the emergence of Permakultur Stjärnsund - a learning center for permaculture and sustainability in a rural Swedish community. He talked about places and grassroots movements as repositories of social-ecological knowledge; and the resourceful agency that taps into, re-combines and creates this knowledge to develop transformative local initiatives.



September 4th, 9 AM

The topic of the lecture was the current conflict over the privatisation of public buildings in Umeå and how it relates to a longer process of urban transformation that involves weakened democracratic influence and gentrification. Julia Pettersson is a biologist who works with forest protection and the forming nature reserves at Västerbotten county administrative board. She has a background as a field biologist in the youth organizaion Fältbiologerna and has been active in varios social movements in Umeå. Johan Örestig, is a PhD students in Sociology and works as a lecturer at Umeå University. He has a background as an activist within the extra-parliamentary left and is a member of the editorial board of the journal Fronesis. Julia and Johan are currently active within The Public Initiative in Umeå that works for a local referendum regarding the democratic process where public buildings were privatised.



September 4th, 10:15 AM

Madeleine Eriksson, assistant professor in Human geography at Umeå University gave a lecture analyzing the historical and material form of a place for structuring social relations in particular places. The point of departure was a building that was built as a boarding school for mentally impaired children in the end of the 1940's. Itsi located in Brattby, 20 km from Umeå. The lecture showed how the meaning and material functions of the building and the landscape have changed through the years due to restructuring of the economy, ideological shifts and political and global processes - in particular historical patterns of dis/investment and dispossession.



September 5th, 9 AM

Dr. Pablo DeSoto is an architect and researcher, working at the intersection of architecture with digital media technologies. Since 2003 he has pioneered a wide range of projects on the disruptive impact of the internet on public space and territory. His lecture "Radical Cartography" addressed how individuals and groups are creating maps for themselves and in fact producing their own narratives of what an urbanscape is about and what is important to them. Pablo talked about the enormous cultural shift from a previous era when the mapping of our cities was placed mainly in the hands of government mapping authorities. He discussed democratization of mapmaking not only as the result of a potent mixture of digital revolutions but also of the actions of engaged citizens and urban social movements. The lecture showed how collectives of activists, hackers and architects use cartography to both analyse and intervene reality for the development of a socially sustainable society.

  • About Stories & Projects

    The Stories & Projects section is a space for brief updates about the activities at Umeå School of Architecture: notes from on-going projects, links to articles in media, summaries from public lectures, reports on different collaborations. Click on the titles to see each full story.