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My Architecture Diploma in AHO

In 2015 I was accepted in the Architecture and Design School of Oslo for my master and 3 years after I officially became an architect.

After finishing my bachelor's in Architecture in Lisbon, Portugal, I did a semester as an exchange student at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway. It was supposed to be just one semester away from home but it ended up with me moving to Norway permanently and applying to AHO in Oslo to continue my masters.

This blog post will be mainly about my Diploma semester. If you would like to hear more about AHO or my experience studying architecture in Norway, let me know in the comments.

*All the images and text on this post belong to me, were produced by me and are protected under author copyright.

Architecture Masters Diploma

The Diploma year.

After two years of courses, it was finally time for the Diploma year!

The last year of the masters in AHO consists of two parts: a first semester called Pre-Diploma and another called Diploma.

Pre-Diploma semester

My Pre-Diploma started in January and finished at the end of June, before summer vacations.

During this period you still have a normal project course that has nothing to do with your thesis. At the same time, you are expected to start thinking about the subject of your Diploma. What problem will you address? Which type of buildings will you design? Will it be architecture, landscape, design, or even something else? And why?

Once you decide on a subject you need to choose a name for your thesis, and start doing a lot of research that proves your idea is a good one.

You will also have to create a sort of calendar/index describing what you expect to produce during the Diploma semester.

Before summer vacation you are asked to deliver a written document with all of this information and send it to your thesis supervisors who will decide if it is a good subject to work on or not. If they decide it is not, then you'll have to find another subject and repeat the Pre-Diploma semester.

Diploma semester

My Diploma semester started in August, I had to deliver everything that was physical in December, and I presented in January.

Here you are supposed to work on, create, develop everything you need for your Diploma.

There is a list of things you are obligated to deliver, like a certain number of models (both work models and final models), drawings (hand drawings, plans, sections, facades...), sketches, etc. You can always produce more than what is on the list but never less.

Diploma Studio

At the beginning of the Diploma semester, you will be given a workplace in the Diploma studio. Basically a gigantic open space classroom for all the Diploma students.

Here there is a small room with copy machines, printers and plotters you can use for free. You will also have 24h access to all the workshops.

You don't have any schedule or anyone telling you what to do. You are supposed to be responsible for organizing your own time and work. However, you will have a couple of deadlines along the semester for specific things you have to deliver so they know you are on the right track.

Diploma Tutors

You will have the opportunity to choose two tutors for your Diploma. One is obligatory and it needs to be a teacher from AHO, and the other one can be someone who has some kind of expertise on the subject of your thesis.

The tutors are there to help you, to question and criticize your work, and to defend you on your final presentation.

Diploma subject

Shifting Landscape.

The landscape courses where always my favorite so I knew from the start I wanted to do something that influenced the landscape somehow and also had to do with Portugal.

I felt that starting from a wider problem and then get closer and closer to a specific solution was the best way to go.

Although I don't surf, I do have a big connection to the beach so this project ended up having a lot of meaning to me.

My Diploma subject

This diploma aims to investigate the possibility of a touristic surf route in Portugal and develop in detail a section of this route in Peniche, a region that shows optimal surf conditions but poor urban planning and lack of infrastructure.

The project intends to modify the landscape by reshaping the dunes to serve as infrastructure and lead people to experience landscape as a fragile, unpredictable and inconstant motion system.

Touristic Routes

Portugal already has a big list of tourist nacional routes that are proving to be very popular and essential for the development of certain regions. Thus, a surf route could also be a proposal with the potential to promote the basic conditions of surf tourism, as well as to provide nacional and international visibility to specific regions of Portugal.

The advantages of touristic routes are the revitalization and valorization of resources and landscape and also the attractiveness of the region.

This can grant an anchor to a city development by generating synergies to the economic level and consisting of a cultural and social progressive factor of a specific territory.


Portugal has an extensive coastline affirming in this way it’s unique conditions for the surf practice as a European touristic destination, being one of the main surf destinations in Europe. We can safely say that surf is now part of the Portuguese culture and in some regions is what keeps coastal cities alive.

However, there are still important measurements and actions to define and to implement a way to guarantee the quality and sustainability of surf in the country.

The region of Peniche saw tourism grow after entering the world surf circuit in 2009. Last year only, the 15 days of the tournament had a local economic impact of 10,6 million euros and 100 thousand visitors. The consolidation of the brand “Peniche the Wave Capital” made it possible for the emerging of a local identity, distinguishing it from other surf destinations and identifying the market opportunities.

New Route

Although surf has such great potential in Peniche its development involves structural challenges like to guarantee its sustainability, a bigger social integration and solving the lack of important surf and beach supportive infrastructure.

The establishment of a thematic surf route enables the recognition of surf and because of this, a section of this route in Peniche can propel the improvement of the base conditions

as well as contribute to a stronger nacional and international visibility of Peniche.


After extensive research to comprehend the dune system in the two main beaches of Peniche, I concluded that both needed better protection and the requalification of their dune system.

There is a non-ideal formation of dunes that lead to erosion and wind blow problems.

Consequently, in the future, we could be looking at inexistent dunes and the rising sea level which would affect the city and the ecosystem of Peniche.

Grid of poles

The next step was to understand how a grid of poles could affect the landscape by taking advantage of the sand/wind dynamics, creating new dunes. The thickness, height, and placement of the poles also differ depending on the dune profile required for each specific area.

The poles not only create the new dunes but are also the generators of program and spaces. Programmatically they can be light poles, water suppliers, support for surfboards, etc. Spatially they can enclose walls and can create spaces such as toilets, workshops, rain/sun protection, etc. These spaces can grow over time, move and transform depending on the sand movement.


The buildings are implemented on the empty spaces in the existing dunes gaining the shape of these spaces and almost merging with them.

They are also very permeable and “transparent” with the objective not to clash with the dunes. This means they are also unpredictable and will change together with the surrounding landscape and its shifting sand.

The building developed in detail in this project serves as a meeting point for surfers and other users of the beach, with shadow, an eating area, showers, workshop tables, and board storage.

Delivery and Presentation

I am finally an architect!

Looking back I can say that it wasn't very difficult. I had stressful times, of course, but in general, it was a great experience. I never felt tired of my project or regretted choosing the subject I did. I had a lot of fun constructing the models, experimenting with sand, collecting samples of vegetation and making the 3D perspectives (my favorite part).

When it was all over I felt relieved but most of all I felt proud. Proud of all the good work I had done. Proud of having finished my masters in a foreign country, in a different language, and with a diploma thesis about my home country.


In December, before Christmas vacation we had a specific date and time we had to deliver all our physical work (models, sketches, books, and printed drawings.)

There was a teacher there receiving the material and checking in the list if we had everything.

From December until the presentation day we couldn't change anything about our project, we could only work on our powerpoint presentation.


In AHO at the end of each semester, there is always a student exhibition. The Diploma class also has one so you need to prepare all that: print all the drawings and hang them in your own little space in the wall and exhibit the models and any other material you have.

The jurors who will evaluate your thesis and decide if you passed or failed will check the exhibition before and after your presentation to see everything you have done and discuss it.

Final Presentation

My final presentation was at the beginning of January, on the main auditorium, and I was the very first one to present. I was a bit nervous!

You have there 4 or 5 jurors who will criticize your work and give a grade. They are normally famous architects from other schools or offices from Norway or sometimes other countries.

You also have your two tutors to defend your work. And you have anyone from the school or outside who might want to see your presentation (normally the auditorium gets very full).

You speak with a microphone either in English or Norwegian. I would say it is 50% reading a text you have prepared, and 50% talking freestyle about the powerpoint presentation. You have a total of 20 min for your presentation, 20min more for the critics and 15min for you to respond to the critics.

In AHO there are no grades, it is either pass or fail. At the end of the presentation, I think you have a good feeling if you passed or not but you only know for sure a couple of days after.

They will send you a text message saying the result and ask you to go to the university to get your Diploma certificate proving you are officially an architect.

Watch the VIDEO of my whole Diploma semester here:

*All the images and text on this post belong to me, were produced by me and are protected under author copyright.

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4 commenti

Hunter Johns
Hunter Johns
19 giu 2020

Thank you! That helps me more than you think! 😊

Mi piace

19 giu 2020

@HunterJohns I think my biggest tip to aspiring architects is to make sure you have the real notion of what it is to work in an architecture office. Some universities can be more "inspirational/imaginative work" than technical and then you feel a big shock when you start working. So an internship is always good :) Also learn BIM!

My second tutor was someone I worked with during my internship that I thought would understand and help me a lot.

Mi piace

Hunter Johns
Hunter Johns
18 giu 2020

Could you talk more about your journey of becoming an architect? I want to become an architect myself. Are there any tips that you could give to aspiring architects such as myself? Also how did you know who would be your second tutor?

Mi piace

Congratulations Mon, you inspire me!💓

Mi piace
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