Svava Riesto

Svava Riesto


I am art historian, PhD in landscape architecture, and associate professor at the University of Copenhagen.

My research and teaching examine questions of sustainability, equity and power in cities and landscapes. Linking architectural history with heritage studies, I focus on the buildings, cities and landscapes that we have inherited from the 20th century; their becoming, social orders, cultural meanings and imagined futures. A particular interest in my research is how historical narratives and legacies are used in contemporary urban design, landscape architecture, urban activism and planning. My writings examine a broad range of urban landscapes from the 20th century that are reconfigured in the present; parking lots, public parks of the Scandinavian welfare states, social housing estates, brewery landscapes, coastal dikes, squatter towns and more.

Having worked several years in participatory urban planning, I often collaborate with designers, planners and grassroots initiatives. I am passionate about how researchers and students can engage with local communities and with the public in meaningful and empowering ways.

Current research

I lead the research project Women in Danish Architecture together with Henriette Steiner. The project aims to contribute to a more inclusive understanding of Danish architecture history 1925-1975 and is funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark, Realdania, National Building Fund, Dreyer, Danish Arts Foundation and Boyes Fond (2020–23).

I also lead the sub-project on European Social Housing as Living Heritage as part of the HERA-funded project PuSH: Public Space in European Social Housing (2019–21). The project undertakes fieldwork in five European large-scale social housing estates and to better understand how people share specific community spaces on the ground. In doing so, we want to contribute to ways in which social housing estates can work as sites of publicness in the future.

The third project that I am working in is Reconfiguring Welfare Landscapes, which aims to establish a new understanding of landscapes of Danish post-war housing estates as ‘welfare landscapes’ and thereby bring new perspectives into discussions about renovation, demolition, climate adaptation and heritage protection of social housing estates. I lead the sub-project on social practices. (2018-2021, funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark). 


Publications and outreach

My most recent books are Biography of an Industrial Landscape: Carlsberg’s Urban Spaces Retold (Amsterdam University Press 2017) and Vademecum: 77 Minor Terms for Writing Urban Places (NAi Publishers 2020, co-edited with Havik, Pint and Steiner). I have edited more than 10 volumes, including special issues of Landscape Research, Nordic Journal of Architecture and Periskop: Forum for Art History Debate. My articles have appeared in journals like the International Journal of Heritage Studies, Landscape Research and Kritische Berichte Zeitschrift für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften.

New podcast - interview with Kulturen på P1 on why we need to diversify and redirect the authorised narratives of Danish 20th century architecture (in Danish). Seminar and exhibitions at Caring for Plans, on how the 'ghettoplan' affects social housing areas on the ground, told by local residents, October 2021 at the Copenhagen Architecture Festival.

My curatorial work includes the exhibition Wunderstadt at the Galerie Aedes Berlin, Albertslunds Øhav at the local town hall Albertslund and, most recently, the living-heritage section of the HERA-funded exhibitions PuSH Public Space in European Social Housing. I have contributed as knowledge-partner at the upcoming exhibition at the Danish Centre of Architecture that opens in May 2022, together with the team of the project Women in Danish Architecture.


Current teaching, supervision and mentoring

PhD course 2021: Architecture, Landscape and Gender: Rethinking Theory, Methodology and practice

MSc course leader, Theories and Methods of Landscape Architecture

BSc course leader, Landskabsarkitekturens historie, nutid og fremtid

MSc and BSc dissertation supervisor


Postdoctoral mentor for Heidi Svenningsen Kajita, (Im)possible Instructions: Inscribing Use-Value in the Architectural Design Process, international postdoc based at Newcastle University, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, 2019–21


Supervisor for postdoctoral researcher Jannie Rosenberg Bendsen Kvinder i dansk arkitektur, together with Henriette Steiner. Project funded by Realdania, the Danish Arts Foundation, National Building Fund, Dreyer’s Foundation, Boyes Foundation. 2020-2023.


Main PhD supervisor for Lærke Keil, Practising Welfare Landscapes: The Social Roles of an Architectural Element in Albertslund Syd, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, 2018–21. Co-supervisor Tom Avermaete.


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