Studenterhus: the heart of Aarhus University

By Maria Jose Villanueva, photos by Poul Ib Henriksen, AU History Collection, Aarhus Student Jazz Gallery, Jutland Station archive

What today may look as just another building that’s part of Aarhus University has, in fact, a very rich past. With links to the Royal Family, epic concerts, a popular TV show and a place of protests, Studenterhus has made history in Aarhus and has continued its evolution through the decades.

Studenterhus Aarhus has a particular story that makes it unique. Once a revolutionary place, this was the first student house to be built in Denmark. Since it opened its doors in 1964, the building established itself as an epicentre of changes and became “the heart of the university”, as it was described by the then student leader Mihail Larsen.

Today, 54 years after it opened, Studenterhus stands as a bridge between the students and the cultural life, the business industry and the city of Aarhus, as the former Communications Coordinator of Studenterhus, Thomas Moeslund proudly explains.

How it started

University historian Palle Lykke explains that the idea of building the student house originated in 1953, when Aarhus University celebrated its 25-year anniversary.

At that time the two university organisations, the student council and the student association, decided to start a collection of money for this purpose. It took eleven years and eight million Danish Kroner to finish the building. Even though the students only collected a fraction of that money, the State contributed the rest. Studenterhus was inaugurated on October 10, 1964 with the presence of Her Royal Highness crown Princess Margrethe.

Lykke reflects that back in the 60s it wasn’t common to have student houses; this was the first in Denmark and it was inspired by Swedish and English universities. “At that time it was the only place where students from all the university could meet, it was a centre of cultural life, there were literary evenings and concerts, the jazz club meant a lot, there was a bookshop, a cafeteria and the student bar”, says Palle Lykke.

One highlight of Studenterhus was the Aarhus Student Jazz club, which was founded in November 1964 by Bent J. Jensen.

From the mid-60’s, the organization presented a large number of distinguished international jazz musicians in Stakladen. However, when the interest in that type of music started to decline among students, they turned to the new genre of the decade: rock.

Concert ticket to Rolling Stones (photo: Aarhus Student Jazz gallery)

On September 9, 1970, Aarhus Studenter Jazz club brought The Rolling Stones to the city. The iconic band played in the sports hall Vejlby-Risskov Hallen because the venue had a capacity of 3500 people whereas Stakladen could only fit 700 persons.

In the fall of 1970, the Scandinavian Booking Agency gave the Student’s Jazz Club the opportunity to host concerts with other legendary musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Pink Floyd, confirms Lykke.

Poster announcing the performance by Jimi Hendrix in Aarhus (photo: AU History Collection)

From 1966 to 1971 there was also a TV show called “Sporg Arhus” (“Ask Aarhus”), “one of the most famous Danish TV shows” says Lykke. It was aired from Stakladen and there were two hosts that asked six professors questions that the audience sent in. “It was so popular, there was only one TV channel at that time in Denmark and they say the streets were empty when they aired the program”, recalls the historian.

What it is today

“Today everything is about building bridges between students; between students from different nationalities, between students and the city, students and the cultural life, students and their education and students and business. That’s what we are here for”, says Thomas Moeslund.

November 2017 Local Election debate at Studenterhus Aarhus (photo: My Pham, Jutland Station archive)

However, this philosophy hasn’t always been present. During the first three decades of Studenterhus the building thrived as a cultural centre and meeting point for students to have political protests and debates. But in the 1990’s and the following years the activities stagnated. “From my personal perspective, when I was a student and I came here (in 2000) I didn’t feel welcome because there were a lot of meetings of grown up people and I was like ‘Is this the house for students?’ It was a place where not many things were going on”, recalls Thomas.

That started to change in 2010, when the private association “De studerendes hus i Aarhus”, which was located in downtown, was invited by the Head of the University to relocate in the building with the purpose of reactivating the student environment in the area. “From then on, we basically have been trying to continue what this place used to be”, explains Thomas. He also points out that when it comes to live music and concerts in Stakladen, they like to present new upcoming Danish bands: “Music is about giving upcoming bands a professional stage to come to and play in front of an audience; somehow this part has never changed”, he points out.

One aspect that has massively changed since the 60s is the internationalization of the city. Back in the day there wasn’t a need to have an International Student Society but this was created in 2005 and eventually merged with Studenterhus in 2010.

Thomas explains that Studenterhus is very focused on working with the international and Danish students and acts as a bridge not only between them, but also between the business life in the city to help them transition from students to professionals. Today, Studenterhus is the place to go as a student of Aarhus University. Everyone can attend various events, enjoy a concert, or have a drink with friends.

For more information about the projects developed by the organisation, visit Studenterhus website.

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