OSA Review: EVA Studio, OxArch Reconstruction Lecture

EVA studio, which stands for Emergent Vernacular Architecture, was founded in 2014. It specialises in social projects particularly tackling natural disasters and projects involving refugees. The founder, Andrea Panizzo, has an italian background and created a deep connection with the issues of Eastern European refugees fleeing from Communism to Italy.

The refugee crisis is a huge issue within architecture as there are refugee camps which are bigger than cities and the average stay someone can expect is 17 years. 60% of refugees live in cities, and the architecture which evolves in these circumstances can have a huge impact on their integration. Successful integration is achieved through public engagement and for EVA studios this is 40% of their work.

The first project demonstrating how public engagement can improve a project is a public square in Haiti called Tapis Rouge. In Haiti 75% of people live in slums and due to the urban fabric there is very little public space. This project combined flood mitigation landscaping with a design for a public amphitheatre space. By using this area for both purposes it gave the opportunity for the community to gain a public space, funded by the infrastructure. The project worked closely with local manufacturers and employed from the community to give ownership over it. This ownership is important when trying to create a successful community space as it will make it well used and well looked after.

An example of a space without ownership is in the is the Calais ‘Jungle’. Due to its publicity often architects and architectural students bring building projects meant to improve living conditions. These are quickly dismantled once the architects are gone and repurposed to suit the communities own needs. Calais has churches and toy shops which have all been constructed from tents, therefore to dismiss this community and bringing in an architect-driven solution will not work.

The next project discussed was in Lebanon. In Lebanon 1 in 4 people are refugees. This has resulted in the challenge of bringing many different cultures together into a single community. Public space is often the area which can begin to tackle this. The public spaces in Lebanon are tiny but interconnected, with a main challenge of lack of lighting and ownership. EVA studio proposed using the local craft of pressed pigment tiles to connect and reimagine the spaces.

EVA studio's research and their understanding of community and public engagement is filtered into projects they carry out in the UK. The best example of this is a pavilion created at the Battersea 2018 Art night. The structure built were geodesic domes which encouraged engagement in the building and using of the space. This project was able to activate this underused area of Battersea park and engage the community into discussions about the area and the architecture created.

EVA studios are able to understand how communities begin to own projects and left us with this advice; don’t design a project completely, allow for around 30% flexibility to help to engage a community.

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