École Spéciale d’Architecture

ESA student work

Matteo Cainer started teaching in 2009 as visiting design studio professor at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris. In 2010 he became an Associate professor and Diploma Director for the subsequent four years. During this time Matteo taught various studios, from Master students all the way to first-year students whom he started the Pavillon Spéciale international series with. Matteo also followed multiple students as their Diploma Director and was also HMONP director, bringing a lot of them all the way to their licensing as French architects  (the equivalent of Part 3- UK.)

His design studios varied both in sites and in programs/research, from projects in cities like Istanbul, Berlin, Prague, Tallinn, Barcelona, Riga, Vilnius, Paris and more. The themes ranged from cultural programs to urban planning, transformations of existing buildings down to the 1:1 scale of a pavilion in the school garden. The objective was to challenge the students while understanding their level and preparing them for the tasks ahead.

Details of some of the studios:

MCA Esa Istanbul 

The site for the studio was the European Capital of Culture: Istanbul; a complex city with a varied heritage, crossover, and co-existence of multiple cultures. The project analysed the current state of the  Ataturk Cultural Centre, considered to be one of the cultural and architectural landmarks of modern Turkey, which has, unfortunately, been neglected and partially forgotten.

The challenge set for the students was a unique opportunity to work with a civic monument of such scale and historical importance in a city that plays the key role between Asia and Europe. The objective was to not only understand the cultural, social and urban implications of such a project but to add a new dimension through a very thoughtful extension and transformation. The resulting project was to imagine the existing Ataturk Cultural Centre, as a fervent and contemporary cultural hub able to re-introduce itself once again as a key player in the town's cultural life.

MCA Esa Barcelona

RAMBLAS - 2010
The Studio challenged students’ understanding of Architectural Spaces. It sought to combine urban exploration through technological and artistic experimentation. The object was to challenge the dominance of a more reductive sectorial and always more specific education. It tried to generate insights, visions, ideas, and proposals that will help envisage what the city and the habitat of the 21st century could be like.

The brief was picked specifically so as to give a unique opportunity to work with an unexpected site: The Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, what Federico García Lorca once said was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end”.The Rambla is one of the most significant streets in Spain so the challenge was opened to the students, they had to come up with their own brief, challenging preconceived ideas and notions so as to propose and design their vision for a new urban/private/ public space.
Students were to demonstrate an understanding of the opportunity and constraints of the site and the buildings, the historic, urban, social context of the Ramblas and an appreciation of its future role. The purpose was to stimulate the student’s cultural and personal curiosity, challenging them to think diversely and more open-mindedly, posing different idealistic and philosophical questions. Combining theory and practice while dealing with a utopian idea, and a continuously evolving future.

MCA Esa Berlin 

The site was Berlin, Germany, a fascinating city which bears the scars of the past and has been defined “….rather a part of the world than a city”. The studio initially explored the 1976 Palast der Republik, in East Berlin; seat of the parliament of the German Democratic Republic and subsequently demolished in 2008. If there’s one spot symbolising Germany’s inexorable debate over how it sees itself, it is here: a hotly contested parcel of land on the city’s imperial boulevard where the Prussian royal palace once stood.

The studio subsequently, questioned the decision to replace it with a fake Baroque building reminiscent of the prewar Hohenzollern Palace blown up in 1950 by the communist authorities, symbolising an obsession with reconstructing past power and its colonial history. As a result, the students were given the opportunity to propose and design their vision for the future Cultural Forum.
The Humboldt Forum project to be elaborated by the students was not only to challenge the political, social and historical issues but to be one of the most significant cultural building projects in Germany. It was meant to contribute to the redevelopment of the centre of the Spree Island and also promote the dialogue between Arts and Science with its range of cultural offerings directed towards the future. The idea was to add a new dimension to the gathering cultural and art spaces of Berlin, housing the non-European collection of the national museum in Berlin, parts of the history and sciences collection of the Humboldt University, media sources of the central regional library and a specific socially engaging student-based museum.


École Spéciale d’Architecture ESA
Associate Professor, Diploma director and HMO director_2009-2013

École Spéciale d’Architecture ESA,
254 Boulevard Raspail,
75014 Paris, France