Practice & Theory of Sustainable and Social Architecture

Summer School 2017

Summer School 2016

The annual Summer school was a design/build educational format with tangible social impact that is capable of filling the gap in architectural education, which is often being separated from construction. The crucial skills for architectural profession that Critical Concrete provides, were gained while improving housing conditions of local families in need.

Critical Concrete reflects on a paradigmatic shift in the role of architect in today’s society. Rather than contributing to autonomous building-making that often disregard the context of the architectural intervention, it promotes a position of a citizen with expertise, who acts from within the community.

International students gained a valuable hands-on experience by thinking through making, in the design/build tradition, while networking with other like-minded people and exchanging their skills and knowledge.

The summer school format itself was initiated with the aim of answering the question: how to refurbish a socially relevant place with no money and an enriching project for its participants?

The activities designed at Critical Concrete aim to bring young students real life challenges, giving them not only knowledge and experience in the field, but providing them with a unique and diverse set of skills.

Our ambition was to provide an alternative way of teaching, learning and creating architecture, art and design. For that, we had run the summer school programs combining both theoretical and practical activities, fostering sustainability in all its levels. All of these actions happened in close collaboration with the communities using the tackled spaces.

Practical Workshops

Monitored by senior architects and designers, the students built during the day, experimenting with the reality of a construction site that aims to be their conceptual playground. They had the chance to discuss and argue the development of the building, through a participatory design process, and thus leave a tangible trace in their first construction experience.

Each group of c.a. 10 students worked with one practical mentor on a project, and experimented with both traditional way of building and the sustainable techniques developed during the year in Critical Concrete’s Lab.

Theoretical Input

Late afternoons were dedicated to discussions, lectures and presentations, screenings, complementing the practical activities. Some of these moments were open to the public, and thus brought a chance to engage with the surrounding communities. This theoretical input took then the form of public events, such as a public lectures and discussions, so that the neighbourhood and visiting students could benefit from each other’s presence.

Courses’ Aims

This social and sustainable architecture summer school were a design/build courses that aims to:

  1. Participate in the refurbishment of places of social interest (one social housing configuration, a production space, public spaces)
  2. Collectively design and build. Participatory processes in social architecture
  3. Contribute to the neighbourhood’s cultural life, by opening our doors for some theoretical courses, evening and screenings
  4. Development of high quality furnitures and architecture with a small budget and restricted time.
  5. Offer the students a new language of skills and techniques, both in community engagement and building strategies.
  6. Offer the students a supportive network for their future project and their promotion, opening new professional perspectives.
  7. Offer a good mix of practical work, monitored by international and local mentors, and theoretical work, all this working in the frame of a social work engagement.

Target Groups

The Summer Schools were open to a wide range of motivated students

  • Architecture and design professionals, graduates, students and PhD-students, engineers, makers, DIYers, builders, artists in their respective fields. People who want to engage with the practice and learn how to build and meet people with inspiring background and know-how.
  • People who want to get a first experience in building with a theoretical input, so to start their own projects, with the support of our network.
  • In general, all people interested in sustainable construction and social engagement.