Large groups of architecture students at a worn-down site usually translates into one of the year’s most anticipated parties for UoM students, however little is said of the work which goes on during the day; InsiterOnline speaks to SAM CREMONA, National Contact for the European Architecture Students’ Assembly in Malta who together with a tight-knit group of students, will be once again hosting masses of students from all over Europe.
In a quick rewind to the summer of 1998, Sam speaks of the first time the Annual Architecture Students’ assembly was brought to Malta – with over 400 architecture students from around Europe bringing the then dilapidated Fort Manoel to life for 2 weeks of lectures, workshops and social events.
“It’s something that will remain in your memory as one of the best times of your life – just ask the organisers of EASA ’98… they still smile and laugh at the memories they had at EASA and the incredibly close relationships which lasted a life-time,” Sam explains, when asked what draws students to the workshop.
Founded in 1981, the EASA network has brought students from across the continent together annually, each year in a different setting – which wreaks ambition and inspiration – having seen East Berlin before the wall fell, a renovated a World War II destroyer in Budapest as well as train travels across Scandinavia.
Over the past year, a tight-knit group of architecture students which he forms part of has been working to bring the conference back to Malta – with their work reaching its climax last October, when Malta was approved as hosts for the 2015 edition of the event.
This time round, the workshop will populate Valletta’s main ditch, home to a number of hidden passageways, sally ports and bridges which will also feature in the event.
The intricate paths surrounding the ditch, Sam says, serve as a testament to the event’s spirit, linking students across Europe – notwithstanding the boiling pot of culture which Valletta represents.
Speaking of how the process behind the decision to bring the workshop to Malta once again, he describes of a roller-coaster of emotions – all initiated by his experience during last year’s edition of the workshop. Asked about what he experienced with EASA, he admits that it is hard to describe:
“I would explain it as the willingness to make new life-long friends, to be happy even though you only slept a few hours or you’re dying from a hangover from the crazy party the night before…”, he continues, “to be willing to participate, discuss, debate working in an international team of like minded people.”
The experience left him and a fellow architecture student looking to bring the experience here: “…what started off as a bar conversation one night, quickly got serious, and as soon as we hit Maltese soil again we got the ball rolling – we gathered a team of 11 people, including students and professionals alike.”
From that moment on, the team searched for possible venues, lobbied support from Ministers and local organisations, as well as piecing together a video to showcase the Valletta’s potential to host the event.
The work reached a climax in November when the Malta team visited Bucharest to present the bid to other EASA counterparts at the Romanian National library – representatives were tasked to choose between Malta and Russia as potential destinations for 2015.
Perhaps ironically, Sam speaks of the friendship formed with the competing Russian team as they were isolated from other representatives during a 17-hour plenary session.
“After the question round there wasn’t much we could do but wait for the verdict. In the meantime we headed back to our accommodation with the Russian team and presented our bids to each other, since we weren’t allowed to see each other’s official presentations”, he recalls,”we then proceeded to dinner and eventually a bar, and had many a beer and tequila with the Russian team.”
The final verdict was reached at around 5am, at which point both teams returned to the hall in their pyjamas for feedback on their work – and the apparent news that Malta was to host the conference.
“At that moment the team jumped, but quickly turned to the Russians for hugs and tears – there were tears on both sides,” Sam says, passionately recalling the moment when the result was announced.
Since the bid, the Malta branch for EASA has been working towards formalizing the organisation as an NGO, as well as preparing the foundations for the event together with the Valletta 2018 Foundation and the Architecture Project, one of Malta’s leading architecture firms, whose employees are past participants and passionate supporters of the initiative.