Instituto Diversificado Jolom Konob’
category: Jims Guatemala

But the other meeting this morning was exactly the opposite. After playing phone tag for a bit, I finally met with Mario Pedro, the director of the Instituto Diversificado Jolom Konob‘, the local teachers’ school. As I mentioned a few posts back, the teachers’ school wants to build a new building, since they are operating after hours without a lease in an old government building, and could get kicked out at any moment. Don Livingston from Computers for Guatemala is fundraising to build them a new school, the city government gave them some land, and somehow I got lured into donating architectural services.

mario pedro directorSM.jpgSo, I dusted off my Architect hat and did a client interview and programming session. I forgot how much I miss architecture! We started on time, talked for about 2 hours, got a lot done, and then went our own ways. Very un-Guatemalan. The project itself is kindof exciting: a 6-classroom school with a public area and various services, a small admin office, a storage room, and a little computer lab. It looks like the whole thing will be about 900 square meters. Oh, and that is one of the other fun parts: the metric system! I haven’t worked on a building in metric since NOAA Hatfield, and before that, when I studied in architecture school in Scotland.

Of course, there are some serious pitfalls to overcome as well. You think contractors can be corrupt in the US? Try working with them in Central America. Also, there is a really limited set of materials to work with (concrete, block, and corrugated steel) as well as very unskilled labor. In fact, about a quarter of the cost of the building will be offset by townsfolk pitching in and hauling dirt, digging with hoes, and carrying things. Budget and money is also an issue. If you want to donate, I am sure Don Livingston would love to hear from you. Click here, and tell him I sent you.

But I’m looking forward ignoring some thing that are a pain in the US, too. Site setbacks? Liquidated damages? Building codes? Man, no one cares about that stuff here. I am going to do my due diligence to make it the best I can, but much of it isn’t even possible. No one here has heard of double glazing, let alone allowable occupancy of a room. I spoke with the contractor a bit, and he said he knows how to read prints, but if I just wanted to give him a little drawing that would be OK too. “No necesitamos sciencias por edificios como escuelas,” he said. You don’t need “science” to build buildings like schools, meaning that they will just do it empirically: no structural calculations. As in, “We’ve always used that much concrete and steel before, and it’s never fallen down.” I am not terribly comfortable with that.

Here’s my working design statement. I should have some sketches in a few days.

Design Statement

Our goal is to build a model school that reflects the cultural traditions of the Q’anjob’al Mayans, while demonstrating the educational, technological, and social possibilities that are opening to the people of Santa Eulalia.

Goals for the structure

It should reflect the traditional forms and respect the cultural beliefs of the Q’anjob’al Mayans.

The structure should be interesting and noteworthy, as a training center for teachers and an example of good foreign aid.

The structure itself must be buildable within the constraints of locally available materials and skills.

The structure must be reasonably priced.

The structure should incorporate ecologically friendly technologies, within the capabilities of the users to maintain them.

Posted by: jfanjoy