A model for the activation of student research

The energy, drive and passion we see at our faculty is the solution to all the problems we are faced with in the building and construction industry in Malta today.

This statement which was given by a Faculty for the Built Environment tutor a few months ago during a public talk resonated with a lot of students, myself included.

Cumulatively, thousands of hours of research are employed into projects which deal with finding solutions to the big problem that surrounds our built environment today – the nasty relationship between our contingent necessity to build and the burden this brings about on the space we live in and the heritage we’ve been handed down.

The issue is that upon looking back upon these projects, many of us feel like the effort was done in vain. The reason is that the architectural projects we invest our time in either go unnoticed, or worse, they would be researched during a timeframe in which simultaneously, people with less passion and less creativity would be coming up with agenda and planning for national development – the same planning which is yielding the unfortunate results we now find ourselves surrounded in.

It was on this train of thought that several students from the Faculty for the Built Environment based an initiative which is currently being developed as a collaboration between a number of entities. This initiative calls for a collaboration between all stakeholders dealing with our field, and more importantly, it calls for an increased participation of architecture, urban planning, conservation and engineering students at a national level.

The first step was to create some sort of platform from which we could spring-board this concept. When I first proposed the idea to SACES, the Society of Architecture and Civil Engineering Students, we identified an event which could be remodeled to suit such a purpose. The event in question was a small exhibition hosted by the same organisation every year, showcasing M.Arch and M.Eng students’ theses and dissertations. Together we decided that this event would be morphed into an exposition which celebrated all the energy we see at our faculty.

The exposition would showcase works from all years and all streams of the faculty, from Diploma to Masters to doctorate and post-doctorate research. These works would be displayed alongside personal projects which students have worked on throughout, including participation in international architecture events like EASA, the European Architecture Students Assembly. Ideas which rooted at the Faculty but have now gone on to become career opportunities would also be shown.

Our vision for this event goes beyond a simple exposition of student works. Our goal is to create a relationship between the public, professionals, stake holders, decision makers and the student community.

The next step was to propose the idea to the dean of the faculty, Prof. Alex Torpiano, whom I personally thank for always showing support for student initiatives aimed at improving our island’s built landscape. Once we got his approval, we went ahead and started proposing the idea to a number of NGO’s. With support from entities like Din L-Art Helwa, Heritage Malta and the Malta Chamber of Architects, we went ahead and presented the whole concept to the Ministry for Education and Employment, who were enthusiastic about the whole thing and accepted to continue further dialogue together with the Ministry for Infrastructure and Transport and the Ministry for the Environment and Sustainability.

This brings us to the present. We now find ourselves waiting in earnest for the exposition we are hosting to take place on the 9th of October 2019. We are ecstatic to be able to give an opportunity to students to transform laborious hours of study into noble proposals for a better environment to the policy makers. I look forward to see what outcomes we can achieve from further dialogue.

SACES and KSU invite the public to attend the Architecture Student Expo on the 9th of October 2019, at the Old War Museum, Valletta

Thomas is an architecture student at the University of Malta. He is currently acting as Public Relations Officer at KSU and was formerly president of the Society of Architecture and Civil Engineering Students.