SMI - Living Room for a Children's Home

A 'living room' and outdoor facilities was planed for the children's home of the Congreation of the 'Esclavas de la Inmaculata Niña', located in San Martin Itunyoso, about 6 hours drive from Oaxaca. It was realized with 20 Students within 7 weeks.

The congregation take care of about 40 girls and boys coming from 'dysfunctional' families, that means, the father is not living in the villages, the mother hast to take care of the children, depending on an own small loan and irregular remittance of their husbands (if existing). Often, the children have some hours to walk to the school. The consequence is, that they don't go but help their mothers in the field. In the children's home, closed to the school, they live- and eat and play and can be children- during the week and spend the weekends mostly working at home.

The 'living room' is completing a compound of 4 sleeping pavilions and a dining room. As the climate is really harsh, there was no space for the children to play, make their homework, or have meetings. The sleeping pavilions are crowded and the dining room was too small for all children.

The analysis o the compound showed that the best place would be in the back of the existing buildings, including an old well and an existing brick cube, used for storage. The outdoor facilities should include play facilities, a school garden and a compost toilet.

The building and some of the play facilities where finished in 2008. The completion of the outdoor facilities as terraces, school garden and compost toilets where built in a second step in 2009, parallel to the DesignBuild project in Guadalupe Miramar, some hours drive away.

Images and Plans


Technical Description

The climate in San Martin is harsh all over the year because of the altitude (ca. 3000 over sea ground)

At 16:00 in the afternoon, cold winds and massive fog pressure the village. The new building had to be insulated against these conditions and had to be resistant against rainfalls and seismic activities.

As wood was available as a locally use building material, we decided to develop a platform frame system, insulated with onsite fabricated light clay elements. The advantage was, that the frames and insulations could be produced parallel to the time absorbing foundation work.

The two different parts of the building where reflected in two different types of wall structure: the entrance-part got an interior finish of white painted triply boards, the back part, a little elevated, got a clay plaster as finish. A stabilizing diagonal cladding and triply boards, a ring beam ensemble of three layers, the reinforced foundation, secure structural stability in case of an earthquake.

The windows where fabricated by a local metal worker and completed with big wooden frames that can be used as well to sit an play. The roof is insulated with styropor boards, achieved in a handicraft shop. The impermeable red plastic sheet is table cloth, bought in the market. The beams where ensemble, as wood is juts available in a length of 2,50 m.


Context San Martin Itunyoso

The village of San Martin is dominated by a huge church and marketplace. The housed vary between shags of used wooden planks and corrugated iron and concrete frame constructions. Many of them are not finished, an evidence of unstable remittances of family members working in the US.

The people who live in San Martin are mainly women, children and old people. The young and adult men work in the US or in big cities.

The people belong to the ethnic group of Triquis, famous for their traditional textiles. The women often travel to the towns to sell their products.

A huge problem is the marriage and liaison of minor girls, through early pregnancy confined to the village, constrained to work in he fields and not able to learn writing and reading. A vicious cycle, the Madres on the Congregation of the Inmaculata Niña try to break, giving the girls and boys a stable home.

Revue 2011

One year later, the next group went to San Martin to bring computer equipment, sponsored by the Rotarians of Oaxaca. Thew where warmely welcome and had the chance to take potos of the compound, obviously well treated and maintained.

Revue 2010

One year later, the next group went to San Martin to bring computer equipment, sponsored by the Rotarians of Oaxaca. Thew where warmely welcome and had the chance to take potos of the compound, obviously well treated and maintained.

Building Phase 2009

In 2009, a small group of students completed the project with the facilities, we could fot finish in 2008. A compost toilet with three cabins, the balance,other outdoor facilities and the terrases around the Living Room where built parallel to the DesignBuild project in Guadalupe Miramar. The students rotated to experience both building sites.

April 2008 I Process

It was a huge efford and fight against weather, fatigue and time preasure, but we finally completed the most wanted Living Room. The compost toilets and some outdoor play facilities were prostponed to the next year, when a group of students came to a village in the same region, building a meeting- and trainiing center for the Womens Cooperative UMCAMIX

Building I Exterior

The new building is embedded in a site concept, connecting the existing dormitories and the dining room with the new living room.

Main element is a gravel-covered place with a sand pit and a balance, demanded by the children.

Play elements, swings and climbing rocks out of existing concrete rings, a school garden, terraces and a drainage system to control the massive rainfalls is completing the build structures.

The geo fleece to prevent the growing of herbs under the central gravel-places was achieved in a shop for handicrafts.

Building I Windows

The metal windowframes where made by a local blacksmith and acentuated with red wooden frames, allowing the children to sit and play with.

Building I electricity

You have to be brave to deal with electricity in Mexico as safety is not regarded as essential, but lucily the 110 volt current is not as harming as the 220 V in germany.


Building I Plaster

Plastering with clay requires apart of theoretical and physical knowledge a lot of patience. After an instruction by a local craftsmen, the students worked untiringly in a nereby transcendental mood.

The substructure was an open diagonal cladding and chicken wire, fixed with a distance of 2 cm to the cladding. The plaster was placed in two layers.

Building I Floor

The floor has two differend surfaces: the pat of the higher building is elevated and covered with red brick in and underground of sand, the lower part is casted in concrete with the help of a local craftsmen.

Building I Walls

The structural walls where made out of pre-assambled timber frame. The two different parts of the house had different compositons: the higher part wash finished with a clay plaster, the lower with white painted triplay. Both walls where insulated with prefabricated light clay adobe elements, put in place between the timer framewok. The outside cladding was made out of wooden planks.

It was a challenge to achive the needed straw as wheat is not cultivated in the region but the students achived it some villages further.

Building I Wood

The wood was bought in a nereby sawmill. Two carpenters, Kike and Barbara trained the students in using powertools and traditional tools and supported the site management with enormous skills and knowledge.

Building I Foundation

After the reinforcements where made and fixed in the ground, the foundation for tha walls had to be errected. They protect the wooden and earthern constrution against water and demolishion.  Unfortunately, the iron reinforcemenst where assembled quite inaccurately, so it was difficult to set the schuttering propperly.

2008 Presentation to the client, first steps

The project was presentet to the further user, Madre Beatriz and the kids. The model was essential and the children most enthusiastic by seeing the swings. They claimed a balance which was later build in the sandbox.

2008 Ariving in Mexico

Arriving in Mexico D.F., the students where introduced to Mexican Culture by visiting the capital, museums, gardens and tasting Mexican Food. The project as presentet at the UNAM, where the German and Mexican Students firt met. After thee days in the capital, the crew drove to Oaxaca, the next step. Oaxaca is a beautiful colonial village and the basis for all projects in Mexico as our tools are stored there and building materials can be bought.

2007_08 Preparation

Parallel to the DesignBuild Project of the Music School in Ocotlan, a student and me went to San Martin Itunyoso to document the compound and speak with the Madres of the children's home.




Inés Aquilué Junyent, Alicia Argüelles García, Franziska Behrendt, Barbara Fellmann, Claus Friedrichs, Kathrin Hoffmann, Pol Jordà, Luis Miguel Kann, Christina Laupichler, Ingo Nolte, Andreas Rauch, Lasse Rohde, Cachu, Luis, , Anna Attner, Martin Baumgärtner, Annika Levels, Yvonne Schwerk, Diana Teßmann
Congregación de las Esclavas de la Inmaculata Niña
Madre Beatrice
Collaborating Organisations
TEK Tragwerksentwurf und Planung TU Berlin
Project Implementation
Project Implementation
Dipl. Ing. Daniel Weinhold
Barbara Burghof, Kerstin Ulpinnis
Money for Student exchange
Money for Building Materials

Academic Discipline(s)
14 Students
Landscape Architecture
5 Students
Academic Level(s)
Academic Facts
Project Context
Project Type
Care / Education | Sports / Play / Recreation
Construction Methods/Techniques