Programme: Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc

Year: 2016

Wanting to learn more about sustainability within the design industry, Ernesto Carvajal left his home in Quito, Ecuador to join the Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc programme at Edinburgh College of Art. Now, working at an architectural practice in Boston, USA, Ernesto is planning to work with an indigenous community in Ecuador to construct a community centre using sustainable building methods.

Tell us about your time at ECA

I grew up in Quito, Ecuador, a city etched into the peaks and valleys of the Andean Mountains. The Andes that run through South America are the canvas for informal cities, homes built in dense conditions with a variety of materials regulation or planning. Growing up in a place like this made me realise I wanted to study architecture and how one affects the environment we live in.

After working for four years in projects that ranged from furniture design to infrastructure planning, I understood the high environmental impact the design industry has over our ecosystems, this lead me to the MSc in Advanced Sustainable Design because it not only focused on new technology, but also on how to plan sustainable strategies.

My greatest experience during the program was the opportunity to share our studio and classes with people of different nationalities. The different cultures made me appreciate architecture even more because of the varied way we each approached the projects. This made me realise the diverse response we, as a society, have towards a specific problem and environment.

Image courtesy of Ernesto Maldonado
Image courtesy of Ernesto Maldonado
Tapial 'designing for uncertainty' proposal

"My greatest experience during the program was the opportunity to share our studio and classes with people of different nationalities. The different cultures made me appreciate architecture even more because of the varied way we each approached the projects."

Ernesto Carvajal, 2016 Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc alumnus

Tell us about your experiences since leaving

After leaving ECA, I moved to Boston, USA to gain further international experience and was able to get support from an architecture firm with a big focus on sustainability. Currently, I am in the process of putting together a focus group in an effort to start a real-life application of rammed-earth design (walls formed by compacting damp soil between temporary structures).

I plan to work with an indigenous community in Ecuador to construct a rammed-earth community centre. The construction process will involve the public and will provide them with new skills and tools for future development.

Simultaneously, I have been working for the past year at Payette architects doing construction administration. With the support of the fabrication lab at Payette, I intend to explore different real-scale rammed-earth prototypes and test thermal performance, texture, water infiltration break point, and constructability.

Image courtesy of Ernesto Maldonado
Image courtesy of Ernesto Maldonado
Textle Community Centre - Galashiels, 2016 Advanced Sustainable Design Project
Image courtesy of Ernesto Maldonado Planning and construction plan for La Esquina - First Phase
Image courtesy of Ernesto Maldonado
Planning and construction plan for La Esquina - First Phase

Alumni wisdom

My advice to new students is to speak up - don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand something, you are surrounded by talented people that probably know the answer or are able to help you work it out. Also, take advantage of the facilities and faculty for your own projects and dissertation. Don’t take your time at university for granted - the opportunity to work full-time on your own research is something that can be difficult to do after graduation.

To the ones about to leave this year, my advice is to keep up your research. Time moves fast and everything else does too, so you need to continually grow and adapt to different contexts. Do not think or pretend you know everything, work experience will show you a different reality from the academia.


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