A few years ago, I made an study about a small village in my home-town in Venezuela, a cold mountain zone. The study was about Sustainable Environments, it may sound redundant because it is a rural area with agriculture and cattle raising activities, the common activities in these type of places, but, specifically in that village, agriculture wasn’t the first economic activity for the anymore.
The younger generation does not practice the heavy work in the land, they realized that, because of the beauty of the town, it’s full of tourists and its visiting was increasing very fast; they decided to make some money renting their own houses, this activity continued growing and by 2010, the village was very different, architecturally speaking, they managed to use the money from the renting to enlarge their houses or even to built new ones, let’s say they managed to start a “Bead & Breakfast” kind of activity. The problem was that the typical architecture and the sense of an antique or “folkloric” village was disappearing, it was loosing its identity which was the main reason for the tourists to visit it.
This study developed the proposal I handed in for my final thesis, it helps me realized how overrated and undervalue my city was. The idea of this project was giving the village a new perspective, not for the tourist but for the inhabitants; they needed to care more about the land and the culture they lived in.
The project consist on placing a Sustainable Agriculture Village Centre, a few minutes away from the downtown, the project consists in a land area divided in sections, each one with an assigned activity, the architecture style was the fusion of minimalism with the main elements taken from the colonial architecture in the place; It is composed by:
– The access building which was inspired in the main entrances from the old houses in the colonial period.
– Pig, cows and horses’ stables, where all the visitors can interact and be part of the routine activities from the farmers. An inner “private” path designed only for riding a horse and move around the Centre. The roof of the stables should have solar panels.
– Stable for producing humus, compost and lombriculture used for the inner crops and for sale too. The visitors can learn about the process of raise earthworms and how to use the product they form.
– Different “eatable squares” or sections where visitors can be part of the cultivation and harvest activities. This area implement activities like: changing crops, using organic humus and harvesting. It will be open to schools and private groups that want to learn about the process, teached by people from the zone. The harvest vegetables will be used in a gourmet Restaurant placed in the Centre; people from the town can also buy some of the harvest in the Centre once a week.
– A BioGas zone (only for intern use) powered with cow and horse excrement, it will produce gas and hot water to all the Village Centre. It is placed in the south-east of the village so the smells or any leak of gas does not contaminate the hole Centre or the surroundings (the zoning was made studying the air flows).
– The Restaurant will have a menu with dishes from the local cuisine, using the vegetables harvested from the inner gardens, the structure has local materials like stone walls (the town is placed in a cold zone and the stone helps maintaining warm on the inside when the sun goes down) and wood beams and columns, like all the “colonial” houses are made in the zone.
– The “living” area, situated in the gorge of the land, so the small duplex apartments have the best view with the benefit of privacy at the end of the day. This are administrated like Bead & Breakfast and people can be included in all the inner activities and town activities as well.
The main objective of this project was giving the agriculture a new meaning, specially for the inhabitants; resettle this activity as the main economic entry for the town.
Fusion the agriculture with the “new economic activity”: renting small apartments inside of the Centre, so the town still have its visitors, this time, including them and the inhabitants in all the precesses that take place in the zone.
Promote healthy activity, ecological and consciousness of the agricultural products.
This was a very interesting study, it help us realized how fast culture and even architecture can change if people isn’t stimulate, people need to re-learn how to work with its surroundings and improve the old techniques; every individual can do something for its environment, but, let’s be clear, the state must be interested and encourage its inhabitants too, otherwise, our roots will disappear faster than we think.
Architecture is also part of the change, it changes people habits, town activities and even culture, so never underestimate the meaning of architecture around us.