During our second design/build workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico this coming March, our team of RAW students will have a mere 6 days (72 hours to be precise!) to design and build a complete project. To be successful (and we will), a lot of planning and collaboration is required before anyone arrives in Mexico. We've been in contact with the community of San Pablo Etla for several months, discussing possible projects and design ideas that support the ongoing development of their communal lands for eco-tourism. This upfront programming and schematic design is essential so the client can sign off on the project, the materials and site are ready, and we are off to a running start on the first day.
Of the many possible projects we discussed for next spring's workshop, we happily settled on the creation of an eco-playground. The project will be built close to the RAW Oaxaca 2011 project, El Mirador, on la mesita (the little mesa) overlooking the Etla valley. To accomplish the combined goals for RAW the community, we’ve proposed a tower concept centered on three design parameters:
1. Discovery – Tower structures lend themselves to exploration and discovery for children. The act of climbing in, around and through a tower offers endless opportunities to discover the qualities of a space. As we think about the structure to be created we are excited about the challenge of designing an interior scaled for children, not adults. The complexity of ladders to connect floors. a top deck (with railing) for viewing, and everything in between offers all kinds of design opportunities.
2. Playfulness – To spark the imagination of the children, the tower will lean to the side and appear to be balancing on one corner. It suggests that nothing is as it seems on the surface – a good place to start when creating for children. For you students who enjoy designing sculptural, Gehry-esque architecture, the exercise of designing and making complex three dimensional structures will be a good lesson.
3. Variability – The topography and geography of the site lend themselves to a variety of potential access points and connections to the surrounding landscape. We will need to design and develop a bridge and several main paths that weave up, down, around and under the adjacent hill, while allowing for the less established paths that the children will create up and down the terraced hillside.
From an architectural perspective, we like the project because the simple form will be both striking and subtle. We’ve never built anything quite like it and the hidden complexity will offer tremendous design opportunities and challenges for RAW students. It’s success will rely on the well thought out detailed design that is accomplished during the workshop. We are excited about creating a space for unstructured and creative play for the children of San Pablo Etla, and the community is too. They have already honored the project with a name: “La Torre Inclinada de Bambu". Move over Pisa, the “Leaning Tower” of San Pablo is on its way.