Experimental Centre for Sustainable Technologies in Oaxaca
The building hosts an "Experimental Centre" where to experiment low-cost innovative technologies that improve the living conditions of the community of Pensamiento Liberal Mexicano, in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. The client of the construction is the local cooperative "Rio Pluma", that is active in the village since many years in promoting sustainable projects that aim to increase the local economy. Archintorno worked with 26 Italian and Mexican students on a didactic format, according to which architecture students were accompanied to the design and self-construction of the "Experimental Centre". Furthermore, during the building phase, an household survey was led that aimed at understanding factors that influence the election of (or the aspiration towards) housing typologies and building technologies in the indigenous communities of the Oaxaca State. Moreover, the survey represented an opportunity for the international students to deepen their understanding of emerging lifestyles and housing cultures in the host community. Thirty households, almost one over five families of Pensamiento, were interviewed. In particular, housing compounds were deeply analysed through graphic and photographic surveys and through direct questions to the owners/self-builders. From the survey, the results indicate that the housing typology is a reliable indicator of the social group the family belongs to. Housing typologies are the product of a complex decision-making process, that is influenced by a wide range of factors, such as monetary income and main economic/subsistence activities of the family, experiences of migrations towards Mexico’s major urban centres and USA, security and thermical comfort, morphology of the housing plot and – not least – personal aspirations and tastes.
The construction site comprehends an open area and a building where to experiment sustainable technologies, an assembly room, a worm-compost area, a multifunctional room with internet access, a kitchen. Within the construction process it was experimented different building technologies, such as rammed earth walls, wood structures, foundations of reinforced natural local stones, the use of tejamanil, traditional wood shingles.
Our project aimed to use local materials and resources through low-cost technologies, repeatable, appropriate to local climate, and to the social and cultural context. The design choices arise from a careful, participatory analysis of lifestyles, housing culture and local construction techniques, in close continuity with the local vernacular culture, even though technological and architectural innovations were pursued. The cultural exchange between students and local people also played a no less important role.