Five takeaways from REGENERATION 2017, 3rd edition.
Another edition (the third) is gone and I think of the punctual and constant work we did in these five months (yes, that is what it takes to organize REGENERATION) to get the most out of these 64 hours (from Wednesday, 26 at 9 o’ clock, to Friday 28, April night at 1 AM, April 29) super-concentrated of enthusiasm, innovation, creativity, internationality and robust technical skills.
I’m often flattering myself that the process is so well-known that I’m not able to grasp the differences between one edition and another. But every time the surprise catches me, little by little as I cross the Centrale Fies gates the days before; I feel the energy that is coming up. It’s never the same experience and I’m fond of people and teams (people make teams …) and so impressed with their willingness to give the best of themselves for a common end result. Also this time it was different, these are my five main take-aways.
1. The force is in the group
People make the group. Thus begins, the theoretical exercise that we make every year at the end of the selection process, to form groups as much balanced as we can. We try to balance everything: architects and engineers, Italians and foreigners (but we are all Europeans, what really changes between an engineer from Turin and a Slovakian architect?), males and females (yes, “males and females”, not “men and women”, as we used to say when we were kids and we went to school ;-), age (the teams are more or less of the same average age, about thirty years old), the areas of sustainability (energy, water or materials? ), curricula, graduates, doctorates, masters, experiences, projects’ portfolio, etc. etc. etc.
Then, throughout the workshop, little by little, it is the group that emerges, it is the group that makes people, and among three teams theoretically perfectly balanced, in the end there is only one who wins; and it is always, I say always, the best-knit. Dynamics, synergies, continuous confrontation, optimism, and a pinch of calm in the creative disorder. After three years I know how you can win REGENERATION 😉
2. If energy is limitless.
Energy begins to grow in the days before the start of REGENERATION. We do the inspections and each time I understand that no coincidence brought us here. Here, where the Fies hydroelectric plant started producing in 1909 to cover the energy needs of the city of Trento, the factory continues to produce creative energy. Energy is not unlimited and it is consumed, someone would think. But when it comes to competition, energy instead of being consumed, is produced, by the quiet and constant interaction of the 15 participants. It’s a renewable energy, actually.
This year, unlike the previous editions, we anticipated the entire program of half a day, to allow young professionals to conclude the three projects within Friday night, at 1 AM. But they started to stay up late (3, 4, …) already from the first night. When creativity is bulimia. 64 hours x 5 people = 320 men/women hours… I thought they would have been completely squeezed on Friday night… nothing, they were more or less as fresh as a daisy. Energy regenerates. And it is contagious.
3. Living Building Challenge. We can do it.
Once again the Living Building Challenge has been won. You can re-qualify a building with a zero environmental impact; yes, you can do it and it’s also fun. In 2015, the first REGENERATION building was the municipal library of Dro (1975), a building with good potential for transformation, also in relation to the nearby Sarca River. Last year, for the second edition, an additional complication, a historic building with preservation constraints – the Arco Bus Station (1891) – and also in this case the teams (all of them) did it.
This time, we have broadened the range of action, asking the participants to analyze the relationship between the “A. Zadra” elementary school and the Degasperi district, in Riva del Garda. A jump in scale, where you can see the transition between the building and the community, always following the Living Building Challenge philosophy. And even in this case the challenge (technical, architectural, technological, urban planning) was won. I continue to say, and I really start to convince myself, Living Building Challenge buildings are the buildings of the future, like the NZEBs (Nearly Energy Zero Buildings) that will be mandatory in Italy since 2019 according to 2010/31 EU Directive.
4. A replicable model
2015, Dro. 2016, Arco. 2017, Riva del Garda. We arrived at the lake front. A typical 70s building, a historic building, this time a neighborhood. And now? How to go on? The question turns in my head for a while.
The mechanism is running, the scheme works, and the model is replicable. Boundaries are now too small; the gameplay is ready to be re-presented in new contexts. European, like Europeans are the brilliant professionals who come to Fies every year to come out to promote the principles of the Living Building Challenge in their cities and nations. In addition, the surprising results (the three projects submitted are always valid and feasible) triggered by the almost three days of intense work by each of the three teams, clash with the solid procedures practice (policy choices, funding decrees, bidding, permissions, etc., etc.) and enthusiasm is blurred on time. In short, REGENERATION needs a regeneration…
5. Genius loci
The Genius loci is a natural and supernatural entity linked to a place and object of worship in the Roman religion. This association between Genius and the physical site originates from the Augustan age. According to Servio, nullus locus sine Genio (no place is without a Genius) (Commentary to Eneide, 5, 95). Genius loci is now understood in architecture to identify the set of socio-cultural, architectural, linguistic, and habitat characteristics that characterize a place, an environment, a city. A transversal term, which deals with the characteristics of an environment interlaced with man and the habits with which he lives in this environment. It indicates the “character” of a place.
There is a genius in the locus of Centrale Fies. Something that was there, that is there now, that has appeared at each REGENERATION, something that remains behind us as we pass the gate in the cold last night, before the final presentations. Some things are really difficult to be written in a call for a design competition…
What is REGENERATION?
It is a design workshop – entirely based on the Living Building Challenge standard – in which teams composed of young professionals under 35 years old, are called to develop a project of sustainable requalification of an existing public building for the local community. Every team should respond to specific requirements defined in the announcement Integrative design, synergistic development of the project and sharing of expertise are necessary prerogatives to tackle this challenge. The purpose of the competition is to show the best sustainable regeneration project for the existing building in terms of architecture, energy efficiency, livability and relationship with social, urban and natural context.
3rd edition teams and projects:
YELLOW team (winner): Francesco Perozzo (leader, Italy), Giulia Guglielmo (Italy), Louise Hamot (France), Sonia-Iulia Raetchi (Romania), Eugenijus Sapel (Lithuania). Project: COLSFOOT.
BLUE team: Estelle Cruz (leader, France), Ilaria Lando (Italy), Marco Rossato (Italy), Anamaria Vasile (Romania), Jurgis Zemitis (Latvia). Project: GROWING BUILDING.
GREEN team: Nicolò Santon (leader, Italy), Marta Frolova (Latvia), Federica Grott (Italy), Isabela Manu (Romania), Marian Ontkoc (Slovakia). Project: L’INFINITO.
REGENERATION è il primo concorso di progettazione per giovani (meno di 35 anni) architetti e ingegneri europei interamente basato sul protocollo di sostenibilità dell’ambiente costruito Living Building Challenge, il più rigoroso al mondo. Giunto alla terza edizione, è organizzato da Carlo Battisti con Macro Design Studio e il Living Building Challenge Collaborative: Italy e con il supporto dell’International Living Future Institute di Seattle (WA, USA), l’ente che ha sviluppato e promuove lo standard LBC.