To start off the fall posts, I wanted to share a quick look at the first state housing program for indigenous peoples in Guyana (in English and Spanish).
Working with communities, and particularly indigenous communities, we tend to lean towards the reinforcement of the vernacular and “traditional”, not realizing that the imposition and use of local ‘traditional’ vernacular techniques and materials can also be the result of a romantic construction of the ‘other’, mummifying cultural values, culture and aesthetics that have evolved and adapted through time.
The approach reflected by lead architect, Gabriel Arboleda, highlights the importance of sustainability, and does it, not by highlighting the use of locally sourced materials, but through participation as an active two way conversation and operation. Thus, stepping away from a simple participation checkmark, or a lobbying/convincing process, the project challenges the imposition of foreign values and ideals- even if the final product results in roofs built with tin rather than straw…
Gabriel Arboleda: Five College assistant professor of environmental design, Gabriel holds a PhD in Architecture from UC Berkeley (Environmental Design in Developing Countries), a SMArchS from MIT (Architecture and Urbanism), and an Architect’s diploma from the Universidad del Valle in Colombia.
Gabriel is an architectural researcher and practicing architect. Both interests combine in the form of research of practice, and practice as research. His work mostly focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, and explores the new frontiers of participatory design and planning, politics of sustainable design, ethnography of architecture, sanitation in developing countries, and alternative materials, methods and technologies for low-income housing.