Scan Design Foundation & UW: Retrospective

A history of the Scan Design Foundation's decades-long partnership with the University of Washington

Inspired by the legacy of Danes Inger and Jens Bruun, the Scan Design Foundation programs at the University of Washington build and encourage the relationship between the US and Denmark. As the founders of Scan Design Furniture Inc., Inger and Jens brought Danish interns to Seattle to work in the furniture store and live in their home.  Working closely with New York based American-Scandinavian Foundation to identify interns and secure visas, they developed a long-standing and highly effective relationship. Between 1971-2001 they brought 147 Danish trainees to Seattle, and the Foundation continues their legacy by supporting a wide variety of student exchange programs between the two countries.

The Scan Design Foundation (SDF) was awarded UW Presidential Laureate status for their generosity over the years totaling more than $10M and encompassing programs within the College of Built Environments, the College of the Environment, the College of Arts & Sciences, and UW Medicine. Since 2005 the foundation has supported fellowships, internships, numerous faculty-led summer programs, and studios for students across UW, along with an exchange program to study at Danish universities.

SDF Fellowship Program

Kathryn Merlino

Kathryn Merlino

Overseen by Scan Design Foundation Endowed Chair Kathryn Rogers Merlino, UW Associate Professor of Architecture,  the Scan Design Foundation provides generous, need-based fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students from all academic fields of study who have been accepted to study abroad in Denmark through any program approved by UW Study Abroad. Students can study at the University of CopenhagenCopenhagen Business SchoolAarhus UniversityAarhus School of Architecture, and the affiliated partner program with the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS). Funding is available through all quarters throughout the year, including direct enrollment through Danish institutions and UW’s Fieldwork, Research, and Independent Learning Abroad (FRILA).The foundation also hosts welcome events for the UW Fellows who are in Denmark, and for the Danish Fellows in Seattle, to promote cultural understanding through offering group activities such as meals, cooking, holiday gatherings, concerts and performances, and outdoor excursions.

Travel Studios @ CBE

In addition to the fellowship program open to all UW students, SDF also sponsors programs designed specifically for students in the Built Environments.

Students stand alongside their bikes on sidewalk in Denmark

Biking & sketching tour in Copenhagen

The Scan Design Foundation Interdisciplinary Study Tour +  Studio
First run in 2008, this interdisciplinary studio has been led by each year by Professor of Landscape Architecture Nancy Rottle and other faculty at CBE. Based on principles developed by Gehl Architects of Copenhagen, and through office and site visits,  students learn the fundamentals of what makes good cities. The study tour is a way for the students to see how this approach is manifest in Denmark and other cities, and then bring that lens back to the local projects undertaken in the design studio. The studio in Seattle has a visiting professional from Gehl Architects or the offshoot firm of Schulze + Grassov who teaches as a guest instructor during the Fall quarter.

Visiting Professorship Studios in Architecture

Scan Design Foundation Master Architecture Studio + Travel
Each year, the Department of Architecture invites a distinguished practitioner/teacher from Denmark to teach a master design studio in Seattle. The Scan Design Foundation provides funding to help cover the costs of a trip to Copenhagen before Autumn term to meet the year’s visiting professor, to visit her/his office, and to see some of the firm’s work. Applications to apply for this studio and its travel component are available to architecture students in late winter/early spring quarter. For more information related to this master studio, please contact Peter Cohan ( or Rob Pena (

Scan Design Foundation Master Furniture Studio + Travel
The Department of Architecture also welcomes a distinguished practitioner/teacher from Denmark to teach a master furniture studio here at the UW during the spring term. The College has received funding to help cover the costs of a student/faculty trip to Copenhagen in conjunction with the studio to explore the history of Danish Furniture design and meet with the distinguished practitioner. Please contact Kimo Griggs ( for more information.

In March 2015, I participated in the Scan Design study abroad program in Copenhagen with COBE Architects. The program was based on the commonality between Seattle and Copenhagen where although the summer is great, the winter season is wet and dark. The Winter City theme runs through the project where students were asked to think critically about what the built environment can contribute to ease the harsh winter weather, shelter, protect and invite people to activate the landscape and cityscape through the intervention of architecture. Students hopped on bicycles and trains to tour through Copenhagen and neighboring cities to explore the winter public spaces that are active and attractive. This experience has been critical in the way I now look at public spaces and whether an architecture has the capacity to engage with its audiences throughout the year in all conditions.
Kejia ZhangAIA M.Arch 2017 Architect, The Miller Hull Partnership
One of my favorite benefits of these programs are the opportunities for students to learn about successes in Denmark – within its design culture, and egalitarian context – to consider what we can learn from a culture where people are notably happy, and appreciate innovative design aspects of the built environment. The Study Tour + Studio is an introduction to Danish culture and an opportunity to apply what students have learned to the Seattle context. When students are able to stay for an extended time through the Fellowships and Internships, their experience of Danish culture, governance and design processes becomes part of their practice, their friendships, a touchstone. It’s enriching, life-framing.
Nancy RottleProfessor of Landscape Architecture
Students and instructors working around a table full of sketches

Disitinguished Visiting Professors from EFFEKT in studio at UW

Scan Design Internships

Scan Design Foundation Urban Design / Landscape Architecture Internship
Professor Nancy Rottle directs the Urban Design/Landscape Architecture Internship program which works with the Green Futures Lab. The interns begin their research project in Seattle before joining either Gehl Architects or Schulze + Grassov in Copenhagen, where they continue to develop their topical design guide while also working on the firms’ projects. Titles such as Seattle’s Neighborhood Greenways, Adaptive Streets, Activating Alleys, Porous Public Space, and Equitable Public Space have been produced and distributed for use by design students, professionals and citizens, with several winning prestigious awards.

Scan Design Foundation Architecture Intern Exchange Program
Professor Peter Cohan directs the SDF Architecture Intern Exchange program which provides architecture graduates the opportunity to work as interns in leading Danish architecture firms. The experience of being an intern in a Danish architecture firm is entirely different from the American one. The intense involvement in exciting design competitions and close interaction with senior members of the office makes serving an internship at a Danish architecture firm a particularly rewarding and valuable experience. The program currently sponsors three six-month internships, one each at Dorte Mandrup Architects, Cobe Architects and EFFEKT Architects. Notes Cohan, “One of the great things about our interns is that they tend to be more mature than the typical ones in Denmark – they are so valued in the firms.”

At EFFEKT, my skills as a designer improved by leaps and bounds. I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects across the world and work closely with architects helping to shape contemporary architecture as we know it.

I made some close friends that I actively keep in touch with while working at the office. The design community is so strong in Denmark that architects across the globe move there for work. This meant I was working closely with designers from Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. It's no wonder the design work coming out of Denmark is so strong, when it is a melting pot of design thinking.
Andrew GustinM.Arch 2018, LMN Architects
Design collage

Student sketches from Scan Design Studio


SDF’s mission to create holistic, deep, and sustainable ties between Denmark and the US has inspired the creation of many opportunities for students and faculty to teach and learn from each other. CBE faculty leadership is a strong core that ensures academic excellence in all these programs and we look forward to future collaborations.
Renée ChengDean, UW College of Built Environments


Group Photo

Scan Design Study Tour students on play sculpture by Hans Henrick Ohlers, Guldberg Town Square, Copenhagen