About This Project

Oaxaca 2012 – La Torre Inclinada

Thanks to all our participants and congratulations on being awarded the 2012 AIA Minneapolis Merit Award for Oaxaca 2011 and 2012!

Following a hugely successful 2011 workshop where we designed and built El Mirador, we returned to Oaxaca, Mexico for a second collaboration with the community of San Pablo Etla. The project, only a stones throw from El Mirador, adds to the amenities on La Mesita, but for a different audience – children. The concept is based on three principles of successful play environments: discovery, playfulness and variability. Proposed as a Seussian tower perched precariously on one corner, La Torre Inclinada provides a unique spatial experience that encourages creative play.

In reality, it’s not easy building a structure that touches the ground on one point. The students started with a model built with sticks from nearby bushes and a scrap of electrical tape found in a tool pouch, in an effort to wrap their minds around the complex schematic. Six days later, after intense detailing and mockup creation and construction, we finished the project with only moments to spare before the late afternoon fiesta.

Like last year’s project, we received a lot of good feedback from the community, including our favorite quote: “you’re building history with us here” that made us feel like adopted members of the community. One of the best compliments came from the actions of a young 7 year old boy. Crouched in the sand in front of La Torre Inclinada, he had spent more than an hour building a model of the structure with sticks and a block of concrete. He’d work intensely for 5 or 10 minutes, then knock it down while muttering “that’s not good enough”, and start all over again. His intensity reminded us all of a past studio course, working late into the night to perfect a design that was due the next day. Maybe there’s another architect in the making in San Pablo Etla and we’re proud to have contributed to his inspiration.