Disassembly Required: Constructing the Unwanted Building

Public buildings are rarely without controversy. Their physical presence is bound to raise questions about their very nature, be it by the community they serve or the communities they exclude. This studio deals with an extreme scenario whereby the building may ultimately prove to be a regrettable mistake despite its best intentions.At a distance, the program for the studio is charged with difficulty: The government of Ecuador has given the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito 4.5 hectares of land for the construction of a small satellite campus inside the ecologically sensitive Galapagos National Park. Up close, the project is almost mundane: The land, although technically inside the Galapagos National Park, is at the edge of an existing settlement – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno- in the Island of San Cristobal. Construction in the town is common place and goes unnoticed without controversy.Within the context of Ecuador the satellite campus will serve two much needed functions: First, to establish an International Academic Center for the study and research of marine biology, ecology and geology of the islands. Second, to give instruction to the local community on sustainable development (fishing, agriculture and ecoturism). Sustainable development in the context of the Galapagos is tied to economic practices other than building. People, not buildings are the largest threat to the environment. Tourism grouped with ill-conceived agricultural and fishing practices risk ecological changes to the islands. The center is intended to respond to these threats through educational programs. The building serves a supporting role, and it is intended to serve as a model for future sustainable construction within the island.The question still remains, should the center be built at all? Architects rarely have control over the outcome of such questions. Buildings are built despite our best professional advice and personal stances. Someone will build this building. We can wish it does not happen, but it will. In this case we can only ensure that the building is removable.Methodology This studio is being conducted simultaneously at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito and at the GSD. The emphasis of the studio will be on the invention of new construction systems that respond to the unique conditions of the Galapagos Islands. To that end the semester will begin with the design of a wall and roof enclosure, and the construction of a full scale mock up. Students will travel to Quito and the Galapagos Islands in mid October to become familiar with the social, political and cultural context of the project. The remainder of the semester will be dedicated to the development of the building (or buildings).