Interview of Nadia Everard, by Chiara Perini / Mad’in Europe
Mad’in Europe had the pleasure to interview Nadia Everard, a young graduate with two Master’s degree: in Architecture and Art & Design, founder and president of “La Table Ronde de l’Architecture”, who shared her vision on the relationship between architecture, crafts and sustainability
Q: Nadia, can you tell us about your work and your profession as an architect?
A: Actually, I don’t consider myself as an architect, but more as a builder. I studied architecture in Brussels and London, and finally, I obtained two Master’s degree: in Architecture and in Art & Design . Now I’m working in collaboration with architects as a consultant in natural building techniques and interior architecture. I am specialized in ornaments and in paintings and ceramics, which is why I often work with crafts professionals. Together we explore local traditions in the use of wood, ceramics, lime, and other natural materials, and make other professionals rediscover them, through masterclasses. In my own building projects, I like to take care of everything, from start to finish, including small details.
Q: How do you see architecture today?
A: I think today’s architecture has lost value, and I see this as a terrible problem. In my country many recent buildings do not last more than 20 years! We used to build, for future generations, for centuries. However, I do see hope, because in some countries they teach architecture differently, and that is what we do in our association, we show architecture in a different perspective, and go back to the great architecture that was born to last.
Q: Tell us about your association, “La table Ronde de l’Architecture”
A: One of the missions of our association is to defend the “good architecture”, the one which aims at lasting thanks to its value rather than at generating profits.
In this perspective, we organize classes for young people, and not-so-young people, who want to learn more about “good architecture”. Some of them want to do architecture, others choose crafts professions. Some will rather go into business or law but are sharing our values and come for personal interest.
Q: What was your goal in organizing the “Architecture Summer School”?
A: The association has now been running for more than two years, and 2022 was our third summer school. It took place in Bruges for five weeks and the participants came from all over the world: Brazil, Romania, Sweden, Belgium, France, Bangladesh, and more. This international gathering was very rich in terms of exchange of culture, aesthetic approach and building techniques.
We could teach the basic principles of “good architecture” and techniques knowing that they will be re-interpreted according to different cultural backgrounds. Some of the classes were conducted by highly skilled professionals in traditional crafts such as Jean Marie Tong, carpenter, Christophe Mahy, stone cutter, and Peter Van Cronenburg, one of the best blacksmiths in Belgium. It is important for us to involve professionals with strong skills and knowledge of materials. Craftsmanship and “good architecture” can together make things change in our approach to building.
Q: What is the feedback from your activities?
A: Every year we have more and more students. We are willing to develop project with the city of Bruges in order to open a school for crafts, town planning, and architecture, and maybe even a university. The fact that there is no architecture school in the area is a great opportunity.
Q: What is the role of sustainability in your class?
A: As I said before, the “good architecture” based on traditional craftsmanship that we promote embeds many sustainable values. Long lasting buildings, natural materials, local sources, local crafts professionals, sustainable techniques, less waste and transportation, energy saving… The importance of all this is based on “common sense”. This approach should be taught in primary schools and by parents too. In some countries like the United Kingdom craftsmanship is much more developed and valorised thanks to school and education. We should learn from them.
Q: You had subsidies for a house which was renovated in a sustainable way. Can you give some examples of eco-friendly techniques and materials you used in this project?
A: Sure, for example, no Portland cement was used in this project, and metal was only used for decoration, not for construction. The building used to be a barn so we kept the old stone walls. For the insulation we used hemp mixed with lime, sand, and water, and also some looted bricks. With such materials the building keeps its breathing capacity and is therefore less threatened by humidity and moisture than concrete buildings. Same for the floor, which is made of clay and lime, and for the surfaces which are covered with clay. The timber roof truss has been restored as much as possible with reused old wood. Finally, the roof insulation is made from wood fibre only with no petrol-made materials. The people and craftsmen who worked with us came from a maximum perimeter of 40 kilometers.
Q: Mad’in Europe is a member of the New European Bauhaus, what do you think of Mad’in Europe’s commitment to promoting the traditional building crafts as a “sustainable” profession?
A: I think it’s great that Mad’in Europe is involved in sustainability, and in gathering all crafts in a European portal. I hope it will continue to grow. I think one of the biggest problems for crafts professionals is networking and being in contact with other professionals. They have passion for what they do but this is not always rewarded by revenues, I think they should find in Mad’in Europe more work opportunities. Also, such digital tools may encourage them to address young generations to teach and transfer their skills and know-how to them. Digital tools can connect experienced craftspeople to the next generation, with the greatest benefit for the whole society.