After completing the first two years of the three-year MLA I program, François Poupeau elected to take a year off from his studies to gain some real-world experience. A French-American with a background in urban systems and East Asian studies, François started his leave at a firm in France before embarking on a second internship at Estudi Marti Franch in Catalonia. Here, François reflects on his experience.
The Catalán firm Estudi Marti Franch (EMF) rises to the challenges of the economic recession through an innovative experimental project. EMF reclaims the outskirts of urban Girona by shifting municipal budgets from construction into maintenance and working with city ‘sanitation brigades’ to develop a strategic calendar toward a time-specific approach to cultural events spaces. The formal organizations and differentiated management of these spaces emerge from repeated visits, walking the site, and exchanging with a team of brigade leaders and biologists. Perhaps one of the most powerful effects of this project was the awakening of brigadiers to the intent of design in their work, reflected in redoubled care and pride for these previously neglected fringes. Another was the ability to arrive at an implementation phase before formal plans could be drawn-up, making on-site staking and sketching the primary modus operandi and drawn plans more of an invoice formality. The ability for iterative and cheap trial-and-error allowed the development of multiple concepts for a space under diverse conditions throughout the year. The combined neighborhood associations of Girona want to benefit from this method to reclaim the spaces that ordinarily divide their neighborhoods toward which EMF proposed a network of trails entitled ‘Green Shorelines’ (from the Catalan ‘Vores Verds’). EMF is a small multidisciplinary team of architects, landscape architects, agricultural engineers, and biologists. My involvement over six months lead me to participate in a variety of projects at every stage of realization and head several projects including the Vores Verds.