madrid | international week | singapore | chrisna du plessis | corine mermillod | madrid new north | césar ruiz larrea

MDGAE's International Week with students from the National University of Singapore

The student of Master's Degree University in design and management Environmental Buildings (MDGAE) Marycarmen Murillo Frías tells us how she experienced the international week.

"You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. Change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete" - Buckminster Fuller.

The international week began with an introductory course on regenerative architecture with Professor Chrisna du Plessis of the University of Pretoria. The development regenerative is a approach that seeks to enhance the ability of living things (and systems) to co-evolve so that our planet continues to express its potential for diversity, complexity and creativity.

Why is a regenerative approach necessary? Because the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not enough, governments need to step up and go beyond the Paris agreements. But where are the SDGs failing? Out of 17 goals, only 3 are related to the environment. Anthropocentrism is evident when one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is climate change. With this in mind we need to rethink our critical thinking and adapt it to the future. The development regenerative is a force for good, it goes one step beyond sustainability. The first step to following the regenerative path is to change our thinking. 

After the first introductory talk, an exercise of training groups of work was carried out for the whole week. Each group included a member of MDGAE, MDGAE + MUA (Master's Degree ) and students from the University of Singapore, which allowed us to have more exhibition to new cultures and different approaches. 

The second day continued the talks of the regenerative approach : start with the place, listen to the potential and create the opportunities. The spirit of a place arises from the relationship between ecology and a particular location, along with the people who belong there and are part of the day to day. The second part of the day we had a talk with Mayka Garcia Hipola. She made an introduction about the city of Madrid, its rivers, foundation, urbanism and growth. Finally, she presented us the project of Madrid Nuevo Norte, with great potential and perfect case study for the international week. Each group made their own regenerative approach of this large scale project . In the afternoon, each group went on site visits and interviews in the surrounding neighborhoods to understand the inhabitants of the area and learn about their opinions and concerns.

On Wednesday, the talks continued, but this time with Professor Corine Mermillod of ARCHIDOERS. The main topic was: how to regenerate our projects? She gave an introduction to vernacular architecture and the leap to be regenerative, and talked about the importance of differentiating the concepts 'sustainable' and 'regenerative'. The sustainable concept is able to keep itself alive and the regenerative concept leads from problem solving to the ability to grow. Throughout the day we took breaks to do different practical exercises to develop our critical thinking and, most importantly, to start thinking with the regenerative system. By the end of the day each team met separately to work on the proposals. Chrisna du Plessis and Corine Mermillod met with each team for 15 minutes to discuss the ideas and helped us to follow up with the approach appropriate to the regenerative system.

On the fourth day, each team met in the morning to work on their respective proposals and with the financial aid of the criticisms and comments from the previous day we were able to make good progress and give a better approach of the projects. Before the break, we had a talk with César Ruiz Larrea about his projects and their application of sustainability. The University surprised us with a lunch with different traditional Spanish dishes and a variety of drinks. It was a great opportunity to relax and to focus on the conviviality between students and professors.

At the end of lunch, we were told that we could leave to take the university bus to start with the visit to two buildings: the first was the Solar Hemicycle of Ruiz Larrea y Asociados; and the second IDOM offices in Madrid. In each of them we received briefings to appreciate the sustainable applications in their architecture.

To conclude the international week, on the last day each team continued to work separately. We had the whole morning to put the finishing touches to the presentations. In the afternoon, all the students gathered at classroom magna at postgraduate program and each team made their presentation and received final critiques.

The international week went by very fast, each day was full of activities and/or work as a team. The coexistence that was established between students and teachers was very enriching. We were able to learn a lot from other professionals who develop their work in other cultures, improve our critical sense and question everything. This is what regenerative thinking is all about, sharing an identity, a sense of belonging and focusing on the potential of the problems we face".  

Text written by: Marycarmen Murillo Frías, student of the Master's Degree Universitario en design and management Ambiental de Edificios (MDGAE).

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