- Sustainable Architecture
- Living and working in stylish simplicity. La Comuna in Huaquillas, Ecuador
Huaquillas is a town in western El Oro, a province of Ecuador. It is located in the far south of this coastal region, near the Pacific Ocean, on the right bank of the Zarumilla river that marks the border of Ecuador and Peru. It features a tropical climate with an average temperature of 25° C, which explains many of the design choices made by the two studios involved, Natura Futura Arquitectura and Frontera Sur Arquitectura.
The project itself is for a family who lived and worked as recyclers in a dilapidated shack on a street of small houses. A local foundation and a private enterprise asked the architects to come up with an architectural response that would provide the family with a more dignified place to live and also give them a more suitable and safer work environment, at the same time.
All based on the well-established knowledge that architecture done well can make a real difference both to personal lives and to the community. This is because the good example often triggers a chain of imitations, in turn sparking an overall improvement in the quality of life.
This was behind the decision to opt for ideas that stem from the territory and are easily replicable, like the simple structural system that accommodates the six modules - three on each floor - that compose the volume. Everything rotates around the vernacular building tradition of timber and no glazing, instead adopting “chazas” or latticed screens that also act as a decorative element on the street front.
Three spaces for the recycling work are located on the ground floor and are separated according to the materials collected for recycling; the three, 12-square metre rooms on the upper floor are for the living quarters. This is a sequence of flexible spaces that can be configured to suit the needs of the occupants, adapting to the demands of routine family life by means of panels that can be wheeled around to change the layout.
On the whole, La Comuna looks a bit like a semi-public construction given that the ground floor, where the family works, opens up completely to outsiders too, precisely because of the work done there, while the upper floor is a more private place, a retreat for the family.
The project by Natura Futura Arquitectura and Frontera Sur Arquitectura is a great example of the effectiveness of responsible, balanced architecture as part of urban transformation. A stylish, bright, welcoming building replaces the ugly old shack and even sends out a message - the latticework on the first floor has been designed to spell out the word “Recicla”, or recycle, almost as if it were a signboard. An idea that underscores the philosophy behind the modus operandi of the young architect José Fernando Gomez and his associates, namely “beauty will save the world”, even with recycled or poor materials and without special equipment or who-knows-what budget.
Project: Natura Futura Arquitectura and Frontera Sur Arquitectura
Location: Huaquillas, Ecuador
Images: courtesy of Natura Futura Arquitectura
Contributors: Farmacias Mia, Fundación Comunidad Solidaria, Mikaella Dominguez, Daniela Cabrera, Yober Aguirre, Dalton Aguirre, Mayra Ramirez, Jose Arias, Veronica Astudillo, Leopoldo Bravo, Elizabeth Peralta, Betty Alvarado, Gabriela Torres, Paul Coello, Eduardo Cruz, Malena Quim, Herman Laroze, Antonio Moreno