‘Imagine you’re going to your grandmother’s house. There is warm food waiting for you, there is a cat who loves you unconditionally and hates your guts at the same time. The TV is constantly turned on with a bowl of candies placed on the soft bed straight next to it, made just for you. Well let me tell you, a typical day at EASA is nothing like that. You are going to be the granny, the cat, the TV and the bed at the same time. Giving and taking are in a confusing symbiosis and your bowl of candies is filled and emptied parallelly.’
– Margus Tammik, Estonian EASA-ian
A typical day at EASA
While not one day at EASA can be described as typical, my first experience is the perfect definition of the quote above.
8:30am. Have you ever heard about four-hundred alarm clocks going off at the same time? By the third day you get quite used to it, sympathetic even to the guy that keeps hitting the snooze button and then sleeps through them all. One of the alarm clocks seems to be particularly loud this morning, maybe the loudest. Sounds familiar – the most annoying rooster alarm sound – and it’s proving to be very successful at waking up the rest of the 600 people in this building.
Suddenly my eyes open wide, with full speed, I jump off my air mattress and sprint across to the chargers bare-foot, foolishly searching between hundreds of phones entangled in extension cords.
Stepping outside, its 32 degrees. Rijeka is awake. Coffee is no longer necessary and brushing your teeth collectively with thirty people and two sinks is completely normal. I meet Urska and Hanne on the way to the showers (the sixth cold shower to be exact). Personally you don’t get used to this as quick as the alarms.
Sitting on the edge of the canal, a fisherman nods in our direction as he sails past on his boat and I gracefully nod back while continuously stuffing my face with the same sandwich for the fifth day in a row. Breakfast is always the least eventful part of the day – however finding a bee or two in your strawberry jam sandwich might spice things up a bit. There’s no wind in Rijeka, you’ll only find hot humid air. Nevertheless, the sound of the EASA FM player travels far into the streets without the breeze, leaving the locals probably puzzled as to why anyone would want to listen to ‘Believe’ by Cher at 9.00 in the morning.
Location – Rijeka Delta
For two whole weeks, our home was a highly unusual space in Rijeka, called Delta. It is a space ‘cut out’ from the mainland of Rijeka by the Rjecina river and the Dead Canal, a place where the river meets the sea. The Delta is situated in the very epicentre of Rijeka and still represents the ‘space in between’: between Rijeka and Sušak, between the river and the sea, between the port and the city, between politics and infrastructure, between purpose and conditions of use.
Today, it is an area made up of three zones which are different in ownership, purpose and conditions of use. Unfortunately, this situation did not emerge from any kind of strategy or plan, but merely as a consequence of arbitrary solutions for momentary problems, with decisions often being made far from the public eye. In cities like Rijeka, this complex area is a leading example of many issues surrounding post-industrial developments.
Some may perceive this area as a dead-end for the city, an old post-industrial wasteland. As EASA-ians, we tried to find or better say re-find its true meaning. We aimed to discover new dimensions of these wasted and forgotten spaces and to ultimately reconnect them to city life.
For anyone who is not yet familiar with it, EASA is a platform for cultural and educational exchange, connecting architecture students and professionals from all European countries, and in recent years from all over the world. The assembly is organised by students for students and so provides a unique platform for education where the cultural experience is life-changing.
Every year since 1981, the workshop is spread over two weeks in summer. During these fourteen days the multitude of EASA-ians forms a utopian community which maintains itself – nearly 500 students and professionals work, study, rest, cook, eat, clean and live together. There are participants, tutors, organisers, helpers and guests. The event focuses mostly on the workshops while the programme is packed with lectures, conducted by professionals from divergent spheres of activity, also strongly related to the theme. Exhibitions, open discussions, intuitive one-day workshops and spontaneous performances further investigate the questions arising during the two weeks.
Now in its thirty-seventh year, the theme of this year’s workshops was ‘RE:’ a prefix from Latin, used with the meaning ‘again’, ‘back’. ‘RE:’ means acknowledging the existed or existing. ‘RE:’ is dealing with the past or present to address the future. ‘RE:’ is aware of the circular nature of reality and interconnection of things. ‘RE:’ establishes a new and different kind of order or value.
Later on, I join my amazing team and workshop: ‘Spotlight’. ‘Spotlight’ is a medium to think about Rijeka. It re-indentifies the port and its diversity, and reveals neglected places’ value. ‘Spotlight’ re-evaluates imagination’s power – one of the many reasons why I decided to sign up this workshop. It renews inhabitants’ points of view and reframes your normal sense of perspective. ‘Spotlight’ re-educates your vision. It is an artistic intervention, a colourful surprise, an illusion, an anamorphosis.
When night falls and our group discussions come to an end, I meet my air mattress neighbour and we decide to head up the hill for the EASA bar at Hartera; a twenty-minute mosquito-packed treck but well worth it for the spooky abandoned paper-factory atmosphere and rooftop scenery. He requests a gin and tonic while my preference is a lemon radler.
Skipping forward a bit, back in Dublin, my mother declares that ‘this sounds like actual hell on earth’ as I recall my Rijeka days to her – little does she know it was my little piece of living, breathing utopia of two weeks, making friends and memories.
For those interested in joining next year’s event, EASA 2019 will take place at Villars, Switzerland. Applications will open in April 2019.