For the first time, EPFL’s Fribourg campus hosted three ENAC Weeks at once. Participating students made furniture from reused materials, built emergency shelters, and tested out formwork systems for textile-reinforced concrete.
The Smart Living Lab, which houses EPFL’s Fribourg campus, is normally a place of studious calm. But that all changed when it played host to three ENAC Weeks at once. Some 75 students from EPFL descended on the center each day between 29 April and 2 May.
During the week-long program, Bachelor’s students from all three sections of the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC) worked in mixed teams, gaining a taste of what it’s like to collaborate beyond their own disciplinary horizons. The students were able to experiment with the equipment at the Smart Living Lab’s PopUP Hall, a research facility with enough space to house large-scale (1:1) prototypes, under the guidance of professional technicians.
For the “Constructive Second Hand” ENAC Week, led by tenure-track assistant professor Corentin Fivet, the students made new benches for the Smart Living Lab from reclaimed materials such as train track rails and water skis. “We had to work with whatever reclaimed materials we could find,” explain Timothée D’Amico (Environmental Sciences and Engineering, SIE), Christian de Liedekerke (Civil Engineering, CG), and Nadia Doriot, Laura Vuffray and Rafael Halilovic (Architecture, AR), who worked together as one of the teams. “That determined how we designed our bench.”
Another team made a bench using four pipes and 75 seatbelts – with no replacement parts. “It was amazing when we saw that our bench actually worked,” say Jérémie Amstutz (GC) and Roman Ramseyer (AR).
Inspired by real-world situations
Outside the PopUP studio, students on the “Living in Emergency” ENAC Week program built full-scale emergency shelters inspired by real-world situations in Bangladesh, Ecuador, Iraq and Syria. The teams had to design shelters suited to different scenarios, such as rugged or earthquake-damaged terrain. “The students took the scenarios on board and set themselves ambitious goals,” explains Yves Pedrazzini, senior scientist at EPFL’s Urban Sociology Laboratory. “The experience really put us through our paces,” add Loïs Weber and Carolina Cerchiai (AR), who say they enjoyed working on something different from what they’d normally encounter in their course.
A unique facility
Students on the “Making Structural Logic” ENAC Week program spent their time developing formwork systems for a new kind of textile-reinforced concrete, producing a working prototype after several iterations. “The students made real progress as the week unfolded,” says Patricia Guaita, scientist at the Design Studio on the Conception of Space (ALICE). “They all accomplished what they set out to do – thanks in no small part to the Smart Living Lab’s spacious facilities, excellent support staff, and quiet, studious environment.”
Counterparts from HEIA-FR
In addition to working on their projects, the EPFL students rubbed shoulders with their counterparts from HEIA-FR, who spent the week at the Smart Living Lab designing street furniture for the city of Fribourg.
The students – 75 from ENAC and 55 from HEIA-FR – celebrated their week together with a special “Unparty” at the bluefactory Unlearning Center. At the event, organized by Martin Schick, head of cultural programs at bluefactory, attendees learned more about the center and student-run projects, and tucked into freegan food and local beers. The interdisciplinary ethos was perfectly encapsulated in a concert where a jazz pianist, a classical singer, an alpine horn player, and an electro DJ improvised together a musical performance.
This year’s ENAC Weeks, which ran from 29 April to 2 May, involved no fewer than 14 different projects in cities such as Fribourg, Paris and Geneva. EPFL is the only higher education institution in the world to offer a combined, hands-on program for architecture, civil and environmental engineering students.