Erica-Dawn Egan admires Axel Törneman’s ceiling mural in auditorium E1. (Photo: Marc Femenia)

New perspective after 100th anniversary

Published Oct 24, 2017

A campus art walk, an exclusive guided tour of KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s laboratories and night-time seminars in the Dome of Visions. We followed our colleague Erica-Dawn Egan for one day – and night – during anniversary week.

Darkness has fallen, but the courtyard in the middle of the campus is vibrant with life and activity. Students on the Master’s Programme in Architectural Lighting Design have just completed their installation to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the KTH Campus, and Erica-Dawn Egan has experienced a completely new side of her workplace.

The chestnut tree outside the old School of Architecture is as old as the campus.

“The light highlighted details I never noticed before, although I’ve passed by here thousands of times,” she says.

Erica-Dawn Egan is Sustainable Development Co-ordinator at the KTH Sustainability Office. Her lasting impression from the anniversary week is a new understanding of all the activities going on inside the walls.

“The light exhibition gave a sense of what the programme entails in practice. These students will enter the labour market and what they learn here will affect how we all perceive the environment around us.”

Popular lab tours

Earlier in the day we visited the Odqvist Laboratory for Experimental Mechanics, including a presentation of KTH’s seven-metre long wind tunnel – one of the three best in the world, according to our guide, researcher Bengt Fallenius. The guided lab tours, where researchers describe and show examples of ongoing research, were popular, and the tours were quickly fully booked.

“Only when you get this close up can you really understand what we’re doing at KTH.” says Erica-Dawn Egan.

In the Marcus Wallenberg Laboratory for Sound and Vibration Research, we experience a room that is essentially fully soundproof, which means not only that the walls and ceilings are covered with insulation material but also that the floor is disconnected from the building so that it is not affected when, for example, a lorry drives past on the street outside.

The silence is deafening in the soundproofed facility in the Marcus Wallenberg Laboratory for Sound and Vibration Research.

“Life here is really completely different than what my colleagues and I experience.”

The laboratories we visit are equipped with powerful machines, high-speed cameras and computers. The Solid Mechanics lab even has a forklift that is used for the really heavy test components.

“Most people probably envisage lab coats and test tubes when they think about laboratories, so it’s positive that we’re challenging that image and showing what it really looks like,” says Erica-Dawn Egan.

Distracted students

The morning’s guided art walk included auditorium E1 – where Axel Törneman’s ceiling mural was previously hidden from the students because of the belief that they would be distracted by the naked bodies – and took us up in the bell tower, which did not have a bell until the campus was ten years old.

The art walk attracts several pensioners who studied at KTH when they were young or who have a connection with the university in some other way. Erica-Dawn Egan meets two nurses who worked in the building where she has her own office, back when it was a hospital run by the Red Cross. KTH took over the building a few years ago, and it now houses the offices of the President and the university administration.

“It was fun having the kids with me at the light installation – they experienced the show in a completely different way than I did.”

“They had never been up on the balcony around the tower – I almost wanted to take them there so they could see the view!”

Erica-Dawn Egan’s anniversary week culminates with a long session at the seminar marathon. She sits in the audience from 1 am, listening to researchers explain data visualisation, machine learning and social robots.

“Even at 3 am, the researchers were just as alert and engaged in their subjects. It was amazing to see.”

Erica-Dawn Egan does not leave the campus until 7 am.

“It will be different when I return on Monday. I’m going to slow down and try to do a better job of paying attention to everything that is going on.”

Text: Kristin Djerf