A Casa de Abuela Cuentacuentos
Escobilla, Mexico
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Location:
Escobilla, Mexico
Category:
housing
Phase:
design development
Updated:
12 August 2021
We develop collectively built houses for those wise old women who carry ancestral knowledge and share it with their community. In Mexican rural areas, grandmothers value honesty and respect to nature - things in dissolution nowadays. We believe in building healthy spaces as a response to shelter those women's experiences and we use architecture as a tool for translating their knowledge into constructive processes to guide architectural education.
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Introduction

The routine of rural women in the Global South plays an essential role in providing food and maintaining the domestic spaces of their community. Their actions have global scale impact, and even if their daily activities mitigate the effects of global warming, they are the most affected by climate change. Furthermore, household activities have always been delegated to women, but the domestic environment is planned and built by men.

In the village of Escobilla, Mexico, the community generates income from selling sea turtle eggs, causing environmental imbalance. In addition, there is a malnutrition scenario among the children. Being aware of the urgency of changes both socially and environmentally, the grandmothers purpose cultural immersions and promote the rights of the indigenous community. This is the reason why Maria Luisa - an old woman of Totonaca origin living in the city, social fighter and scenic oral narrator -, together with her neighbor Maricarmen, urge to build a place where they can share their knowledge while they still have conditions to do it.

In a similar approach, our work started 3 years ago, in Kikajjo, a village in Uganda, where we developed a house considering local women as builder agents from the design up to the construction: the final user was an old community leader, Jajja Nannono, and the building process involved training workshops for women. Building together with them, we can bring the experience to transform the academic architectural discussion.

Impact
We believe that a long-term social, environmental and economic change in large-scale starts by reaching the most vulnerable and least visible parts of a system. According to UNDP, more than 70% of the world's poor population are women, due to lower income, unpaid domestic work and disproportionately deposited child care. The poverty scenario creates a more exposed condition to climate change and few or no tools to deal with it. Despite and on account of this vulnerability, they have the most sustainable routines and, in rural areas, the most efficient actions to restore balance in soil regeneration. The logic practiced by these women can teach us a lot about values ​​to be included in the reflection on how to conceive a built environment.

Maria Luisa and Maricarmen, community leaders in Escobilla, Mexico, promote indigenous rights through sharing their 75 years of knowledge. They are not just able to talk about breeding animals, protection of fauna and flora, nutrition, myths and stories but also promote Temazcal and other spiritual practices and share some deep-seated beliefs of honesty, respect and connection with nature. These experiences have multiple impacts: by proposing ecological tourism, they bring income to the community, which provide better conditions for the indigenous children, and also educate both local and foreign people to respect and keep their culture alive without impacting the sea turtle life nearby. By focusing and directly impacting the grandmothers of a community, we expect to regenerate and transform the whole system in which they are inserted.
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Core team
Maricarmen (healer and holistic therapist) welcomed Mariana (nomadic Brazilian architect), into her community in Escobilla, Oaxaca, Mexico, after participating in Temazcal rituals that Maricarmen guides. She introduced her to the group of grandmothers, of which Maria Luisa, known as Abuela Cuentacuentos (scenic oral narrator, sindicalist leader and responsible for the project's demand), is part.

Mariana works alongside the Brazilians Luiza (architect and bioconstruction builder) and Thais (architect and filmmaker) and in 2020 they have built together a project with a similar approach in a rural area of Uganda. In her immersion in Mexico, Mariana met Cato (local master of construction), born in the village next to Escobilla. Felizberto and Daniela (bioconstruction builders), both from Escobilla, joined the project design with traditional construction knowledge.

Mariana asked abuelas to make the project part of her master's project so they could also have the insights of researchers and still share their entire vision with the academic community. Ana Gabriela, (architect and educator) is Mariana's advisor and has a postdoc on contemporary architecture, gender and education. Sasquia (engineer and educator) is also an advisor and postdoc in wood structures and sustainability. Finally, Tomaz Lotufo (architect and integrated architecture professor) and Bianca (who produced images for the project) were called as collaborators. The project family will certainly increase because what materializes the work and inspires more people to join is the energy of collective collaboration.
Diagram of project's core team

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Image gallery
A Casa's logo

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Why we do it

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How we do it

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Chronologie of A Casa projects

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Picture of Nannono Imaculate, Jajja

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Culture of Kikajjo, Uganda

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Jajja’s house project

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Jajja’s house construction

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Pictures of Jajja’s house built

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Grandmother Cuentacuentos picture.

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Grandmother Cuentacuentos pictures.

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Plot context’s pictures

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Neighbour’s house (Maria Carmen)

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Local rituals

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Local context and enviroment

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Technical drawings
Grandmother Cuentacuentos project’s view

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Kitchen

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Diagram of house needs

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Topography studies

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Topography studies

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House plan

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Section AA

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Section BB

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Diagram of the construction phases

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Diagram of the water supply

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Diagram of the water treatment

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Diagram of the water treatment

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Storytelling center at night

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Help bring our project to life!

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Where are we now
The core team is working together prepared for the challenge and the community is articulated to take part in the construction. While the architectural project is being developed, reaching the final and detailed stage, the plot is chosen and owned by Maria Luisa, who also has the initial financial resources to build a water well that will capture rainwater for the construction during the coming months - from June to September is the rainy season in the region. We are now focused on raising funds to start the work, which will take place in October 2021. We are specially engaged in social media and we have the knowledge to register the experience so it can bear other fruits in the future.
An indication of our team’s capacity:
10% funding already raised
100% expertise already found
20% materials / equipment already found
100% builders already found
Finance: € 21,200
We believe the financial collaboration will not only provide the structure necessary to accomplish the project, but also become a social capital that will multiply its value with the unfolding impacts inherent to the constructed space. The building process will allow the exchange of technical and cultural knowledge, and while we learn the local context, the community will be involved in construction workshops, strengthening their autonomy and transforming their relationship with nature, promoting regeneration and integration as long term goals. Besides the direct impacts, the experience will be remarkable to the future of theoretical and empirical research for the architectural discussions.
  • materials
  • 4,000
  • stay rent
  • 1,500
  • food
  • 1,000
  • design costs
  • 4,500
  • plane tickets
  • 4,200
  • labour
  • 6,000
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