Citizens of Limerick: Javi BuronGarcia

Ger Walsh, Michael McLaughlin and Javi BuronGarcia from Fab Lab
Ger Walsh, Michael McLaughlin and Javi BuronGarcia from Fab Lab

Javi BuronGarcia is an architect from Córdoba in Spain; he commutes between Córdoba and Limerick where he teaches at the School of Architecture in UL and is the director of Fab Lab Limerick.

“I have this half-life between Spain and Ireland and Limerick feels now like my second home.”

Javi founded the Limerick Fab Lab (fabrication laboratory) that is part of a global network of 800 Fab Labs around the world with three in the Republic of Ireland. The Fab Lab concept started in MIT 15 years ago. “Fab Labs are places in which you have access to digital fabrication technologies such as 3d printing, laser cutters, CNC routers and vinyl cutters but they are not traditional research or lab spaces. In order to call yourself a Fab Lab you need to have digital fabrication tools, an open-door policy, create public events and activities, and you have to acknowledge and collaborate with other Fab Labs; we actively collaborate with all the Fab Labs in Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

The aim of the Fab Lab in Limerick is to engage with the general public. “That’s the reason we came to the city centre outside the university campus. We want to be a hybrid space for academic research, cultural activity and education. We encourage people to learn about these technologies and discover how they can incorporate these technologies into their own creative projects. Digital fabrication technologies are really transdisciplinary so they can be applied to almost any field. We like anyone to share the space and talk to each other. We hope this  will create things we don’t expect. That’s one the aims of the Fab Lab, we create activities for all ages, all disciplines and all levels of experience. We are also very interested in making Fab Lab Limerick a space of critical debate and thinking about digital fabrication technologies and the impact in our society”

Living and working between two cities has given Javi intimate knowledge of both Córdoba and Limerick. “I like this periphery situation I live in. Limerick is a small city like Córdoba. There are striking similarities, Limerick on the Atlantic periphery, Córdoba is on the Mediterranean, close to Africa, both face big economic, social and urban challenges and they both have strong educational institutions. Córdoba was bidding for ECOC in 2016, but we lost. Both cities have a vision on how culture can reshape their future.”

Like Limerick, Córdoba has a well preserved historic centre.

 “I love Limerick’s city centre, it is fantastic and has an amazing Georgian core that is now neglected and abandoned. The general public don’t see the value of what they have. I think this place has a lot of potential. If we are smart collectively about it, it can be the catalyst of reshaping Limerick.”

Javi’s work has great potential for urban redevelopment. “In my professional practice we have been researching the transformational capacity of cultural and creative industries in cities. In Córdoba we have lots of abandoned public buildings and we have been championing the idea of reactivating some of them by the local creative and cultural sector without big economic investments. Fab Lab Limerick has been set up in a similar way, using a bottom-up approach. We have done things in unorthodox ways, for example, the first machines we had here were built by my students and myself and we renovated the space and started with the bare minimum resources.”

“Here in Limerick, we have a lot of different cultural agents dispersed across the city. It's all about creating dense but loose networks of individuals, organisations and companies. If you let them setup cheaply in neglected areas with the appropriate urban fabric, like the Georgian block and their back lanes, they will kick-start an economic, social and cultural transformation. We need some simple policies to bring the cultural sector to the city centre: living-work schemes, more flexible renovation regulations and a soft loan programme for independent cultural entrepreneurs. This sector doesn’t need big investments and it is very resilient. I really like how Fab Lab is evolving into a super interesting space collaborating with many people from the local network.”

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