Institut for (X): From Underground to ‘New Municipality’


Institut for (X) is a culture and business platform for young designers, architects, artists, entrepreneurs and craftsmen working side by side. The Danish company Bureau Detours originally established the platform in 2009, in Aarhus. Bureau Detours is a creative organisation with great interest in creating social environments in public spaces; it operates on various platforms in a mix of art, design, architecture and city planning.

The beginning

Institut for (X), which has today become a platform where creative youngsters can unfold their ideas and skills, was originally created with another purpose in mind. The Institut for (X) project originates from another Bureau Detours project called ‘One Love City’. This project was created for the World Outgames in 2007, when Bureau Detours constructed a mini Aarhus on top of the Black Diamond in Copenhagen. The Aarhus municipality was so impressed with the project that they asked Bureau Detours to create a similar project in Aarhus. The municipality provided a small space at Godsbanen, an old deserted railway station, in which Bureau Detours created the ‘new’ mini Aarhus: Institut for (X). Since then Bureau Detours has continued to clear unused spaces at Godsbanen, to expand the project and experiment with the architectonic possibilities of the buildings. Institut for (X) has today developed itself into a separate platform or neighbourhood for individual DIY builders and ‘doers’, who have the creativity and skills to create things on their own, but are in need of a physical space. This development happened after independent designers, architects, craftsmen, etc. started to ask for permission to rent workspaces for own individual projects and small companies.


The new municipality

In order to keep the space interesting and inspiring, the X’ers, as they call themselves, work together each year to change the main space, DAK (Room for Design, Architecture and Art). Everything is torn down, only to be built up again in a new architectonically experimental way. Ari Marteinsson from Bureau Detours says they call Institut for (X) for the new municipality. “We don’t think the normal is particularly cool or great, therefore we have created a new neighbourhood in our way – the way we think is cool. We regularly deliver ideas for the municipality, as we believe that many of the buildings we create can easily be escalated up to real sized buildings”.

It is not only on its architectural and city planning aspects that Institut for (X) differs from the ‘real’ society. Institut for (X) has built up its platform, or rather the ‘new municipality’, around the principal of being a ‘do-ocracy’, a society of do’ers who can look after themselves and create on their own. Ari further explains that Mads Peter Laursen founder of Bureau Detours therefore selects people for Institut for (X) based on their possession of these characteristics. That said, Ari continues: “It is still a platform where people help each other across disciplines, which often leads to people becoming a part of each other’s projects.” The fascinating thing about this do-ocracy is that projects are actually being carried out within very short time periods – as the platform embraces people who ‘just do it’ without too much discussions. It is very clear that Institut for (X) is both a platform where ‘normal’ is being questioned and challenged within city planning, architecture, etc. and a free space to create whatever is desired.