A small disappointment is what I see on the faces of people when I tell them about my Erasmus exchange – here in Belgium. Because obviously linked with that sentence “going on Erasmus” is of course “going abroad”. But yes, and wipe that disappointment off your face, I deliberately chose for an exchange in my own country, Belgium. For one semester, I’m studying Interior-Architecture at ENSAV La Cambre in Elsene, Brussels. You may (or may not) know the school as one of the most prestigious art schools of our country – fashion lovers who understand some French may click here: http://www.telebruxelles.be/emission/terre-urbaine/
Back to a world where IA matters. The workshops here at La Cambre are run a little different than what I am used to. All students from first Bachelor to second Master are assembled together on the same day, on the same floor in a large studio. Everyone can consult each other and if there are presentations they are given all together. For some assignments, groups are formed throughout the different years. Unfortunately I’m not a second year, so I do not participate in the internship program of La Cambre. Here, in the second year, there is such a thing as internal placements. For six weeks IA students participate in a workshop of choice from another discipline, for example; photography, stylism, sculpture,… I think that is super interesting!
The project which I’m working on here has to do with the conversion of an old cast iron factory, “La Fonderie” in Molenbeek. In addition to the renovation of an old assembly hall (we’re constructing a museum in there), we also have to design a school and an additional park or green space. Other functions are also possible if the student thinks it is necessary. Because La Fonderie has since long been trying to achieve a renovation but has no budget, they will use our best designs to try and motivate the public towards a new possible project. In this way, we don’t merely take into account the requirements of our teachers, but also those of a real customer.
The theory subjects are almost all interdisciplinary. I’m following a course called “Polymères” together with students of industrial design. Also the course “Droit d’Auteur” (copyright law) is followed by all master students of the different artistic studies at La Cambre. This method has its pros and cons I think. You learn a lot about the different disciplines, but if your interest only lies in your own discipline there is only a small part of classes dedicated to you. What did disappoint me is that, especially during studio hours, not too many people care to show up. Now that the project is ending and there are many workshops on the schedule that has changed and is much better.
But in the beginning, I felt a little lost. The fact that there were few people made that I had to rely mostly on myself for inspiration. I normally get inspired by group discussions or consultations. Also the fact that studios don’t have an assigned teacher, and that you just have to approach teachers to present yourself, and teachers that work with all the years at the same time, was perhaps difficult for me in the beginning. Luckily I already spoke some French, because without knowledge of the language it might have been a very different experience. Finally, I want to express that although I was not used to this method, it has not been a bad experience! I’m quite happy I had to go through that change. As they say in Dutch: “Verandering van spijs doet leven”
With an eye on international internships (I hope!) when I graduate school, because yes, I’ll someday go explore wider horizons, I am glad that Brussels can serve as an intermediate step. In my class there are only two other people with Belgian nationalities. Ok, most others are of French origin, but there’s also a girl from Canada, a girl from Syria, and a boy from Colombia. To see all these people with different backgrounds in design is touching and very educational. If we take that kind of thinking outside La Cambre’s walls into the city of Brussels, we see that (in Belgium) it is the ideal place to get to know and learn from other cultures.
by Frédérique Windels – Master IA student
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