THE NEW LOCAL
JOSÉ JORGE GOTTRET MERKEL
“¿Eres de Venezuela?
No, soy boliviano. De La Paz.”
Even though I’m from Bolivia, I entered Ñuñumayani, a town not far from La Paz, as a foreigner. I was lucky to have a local NGO introduce me and take me through their programs - providing an awareness I wouldn’t have been able to obtain otherwise in the short time of my visit.
Due to its proximity to metropolitan areas, Ñuñumayani is in an unusual position. It is neither rural, nor modern, but in a state of transition. Concrete foundations, piles of red brick, and half-finished houses adorn the landscape of abandoned adobe. The men seek job opportunities in nearby towns or in the city. Young families end up moving so their children can finish high school. It’s the women who stay working the land and contacting different NGO’s to improve the community.
Talking to them I learned, among many other things, about how they use the freeze-thaw cycle as a natural process of dehydration to preserve the nutritional properties of potatoes and make them everlasting in the form of chuño; about how coca is used not only to mitigate the effects of altitude sickness, but to reinforce social bonds; about the comfort but labor intensity of adobe and the convenience but unsuitability of brick.
All the information was later drawn in an attempt to bridge the gap between the architect and the community.
With an understanding of the potential of the community to develop a project (based on its social organization, its constructive skill and the natural resources) I developed a proposal for the women’s group headquarters in the form of a storyboard.
Proposing an alternative to the current system of building with the hope of being challenged to instigate a dialogue. Ensuing a participatory process that is not based on tokenism but an exchange of knowledge. Where the architect stands as advocate and activist.
John Bass [CHAIR]