Eva Franch I Gilabert, an architect, blends local knowledge with global standards. She is fascinated with contemporary architectural histories and potential futures. Franch is an expert in curatorial activism along with planetary pedagogies and practices. On subjects including architecture, pedagogy, curatorial techniques, and the importance of unusual ideas and undertakings in the development and understanding of public life, Franch has delivered lectures all over the world.

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Eva Franch i Gilabert, the architect and the educator _©FT/OmarKhaleel

According to Franch, the discipline of architecture has the honour and duty of articulating the varied societal goals and realities at any given time. Architecture can combine the social, economic, political, and technological sectors in a project of shared desire. Architecture is also the field that understands society as a whole, giving it the ability to advocate for people unable to participate in decision-making. All people may sit in buildings.

Architects and architectural institutions have either been too complacent or too hermetically sealed off with the overuse of concepts like sustainability, participation, and bottom-up approaches. These concepts include self-declared avant-gardism, metadiscursive narrative, and an aesthetic devoid of any social or political currency.

Every effective leader has a teacher-mentor

Eva Franch I Gilabert was born and raised in a community surrounded by rice fields on river banks. Eva Franch I Gilabert’s interests in second derivatives, technical sketching, and philosophical ideas peaked throughout her teens. She worked on optimisation algorithms all day and wrote space-intersecting equations as a pastime. Her math professor finally inspired her to apply to architectural school.

Someone’s ideas and attempts to alter the situation tend to stall when they grow accustomed to the status quo or form a habit of the comfort zone created around them.

Academics to Profession – a brief journey

The first step on this architecture student’s path to becoming Eva Franch, the field’s rising star, is working at a research centre celebrating the architect Antoni Gaudi’s work. During her first internship, she first encountered social housing in Rotterdam. After completing her internship, she opted to work full-time with the same company. 

After winning several architectural design competitions, she moved to Barcelona to start her studio, which she named OOAA (Office of Architectural Affairs). When she was 24, she decided to leave her architectural practice and enrol at Princeton after being awarded a LA Caixa fellowship to further her education there.

The day after presenting her thesis at Princeton, she headed to Buffalo, upstate New York, where she had committed to working as a professor. Before going to Houston, Texas, to take a teaching position as the Wortham Fellow and the coordinator of the Master Thesis Program, she spent a year and a half at Rice University as the Reyner Banham Fellow.

Director at the Storefront for Art

After the first year, she applied for the director’s position at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York. Despite having no prior experience serving as the director of such an art and architecture storefront, she applied for the role and was selected for it.

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Eva Franch i Gilabert, chief curator and director of New York’s Storefront for Art and Architecture _©Stefan Ruiz

She initiated the Letters to the Mayor campaign while acting as the director of Storefront. It has expanded to more than 20 cities worldwide, including New York, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Athens, Taipei, and Madrid. She also started the Manifesto journal, the Competition of Competitions, and the World Wide Storefront, an online hub for eccentric international initiatives. Aesthetics-Anesthetics, Past Futures, Present, Futures, Sharing Models, Measure, POP – Protocols, Obsessions, Positions; Yet to be Written; Storefront for Sale, and Being are a few of the exhibitions Franch has chosen to curate.

Director of the Architectural Association

Eva Franch I Gilabert, the first permanent female director of the Architectural Association, one of the most prestigious architecture schools in the world, was ousted from her post in July 2020. Many individuals with strong emotional ties to the Architectural Association and those associated with the global architecture industry considered the decision to target the 1978-born, youngest candidate to hold the director’s position in the AA’s history as sexist. And many people began researching the affable young leader in architecture.

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Eva Franch addressing students as the director of AA _©AA

Franch introduced the Experimental Programme and the Speculative Studies department at the Architectural Association as a component of a new Academic Framework (2018–20). Franch introduced the Open Tutorials and the Open Seminars, two fresh educational initiatives that act as forums for debate and education inside the institution. Through the Diploma and Experimental units, as well as the public events, Franch brought together various international voices from various sectors. Architecture in Translation and New Canonical Histories (2018–20) both engaged with hegemonic notions of architectural discourse and practice (2020).

With the introduction of the AA Wood Lab and the AA Ground Lab in the fall of 2019, the AA Residence, an externally funded research and cultural platform to create new concepts and practices at the convergence of architecture, art, technology, policy, and design, was established. She oversaw numerous initiatives, including the Expanding Horizons campaign, which offered full scholarships across all programs to deserving students worldwide for the first time. She also oversaw the AA’s acquisition of Taught Degree Awarding Powers, the relaunch of AA Files, the Student Care Center, the Writing Center, the Careers Office, and the Hardship Fund to support student life and wellbeing.

Franch, the educator

Franch, as an educator, believes that a global homogenisation of cultural and educational institutions has been observed during the past few years due to new communication technologies, continuous market forces, and more global mobility. The radical playfulness and historical accountability that formerly distinguished educational and cultural organisations have been replaced by brands of identities and consumers.

But given the state of the world now, Franch believes that current events must be viewed as both historically significant and urgent. In our capacities as global citizens and architects, we all face issues that are getting increasingly complex. More than ever, we need new channels for desire and action.

Society faces significant challenges in geopolitics, technology, and the environment. The ability of architecture to rewrite its disciplinary foundations, history, and modes of knowledge creation and cooperation will determine how it reacts to these difficulties.

Eva Franch at Elisava, Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, in a lecture on Politics, Economy and Architecture _©ELISAVA

It is her idea to develop a project that educates people about how architecture is used in designing, building, and transforming better living spaces and environments. She believes in creating a research and design practice culture that allows experimentation while adhering to moral and aesthetic standards to address social, political, and spatial circumstances.

To adequately meet our concerns and objectives, society must refocus its unquenchable spirit of change and better comprehend the lessons different civilisations have created. Suppose we are to find a new point of convergence where we can create a shared understanding space. In that case, we must comprehend the politics of aesthetics and the emotional and cultural frameworks that underlie all we do and seek. Although Franch wanted to believe that diversity and meritocracy were the new forms of selection, we still live in a society that promotes irresponsibility.

Eva Franch has established a reputation as one of the most critical voices of our time due to her curatorial and pedagogical activities. She has constantly been reforming educational and cultural establishments for the last ten years.

References:

Morrison, J. (2020) Eva Franch I gilabert: Architectural association sacks first female director, News | The Times. The Times. Available at: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/eva-franch-i-gilabert-architectural-association-sacks-first-female-director-zwdmbqnll (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Eva Franch I Gilabert | Princeton University School of Architecture (no date) Princeton University. The Trustees of Princeton University. Available at: https://soa.princeton.edu/content/eva-franch-i-gilabert (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Tom Ravenscroft |13 July 2020 Leave a comment (2020) Eva Franch I Gilabert fired as AA director, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/07/13/eva-franch-i-gilabert-fired-architectural-association-director/ (Accessed: November 25, 2022). 

Marcus Fairs |18 June 2018 Leave a comment (2018) “we need to become better at explaining the power of Architecture” says new AA director Eva Franch I gilabert, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2018/06/18/eva-franch-i-gilabert-architectural-association-director-interview/ (Accessed: November 23, 2022).

Author

Sadiq Zafar is a practicing architect, urban policy researcher, and planner who previously worked for a national research institute and held the position of assistant professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. He researched urban poor housing neighborhoods while working as a sustainability planner in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.

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