Disassembly Required: Constructing the Unwanted Building

The aim of the studio will be to develop new methods of design and construction adapted to the specific needs of the Ecuadorian Rain Forest, as alternatives to the current thoughtless transfer of urban construction techniques to the Amazon (mainly poured in place concrete structures in-filled with CMU). The studio will place emphasis on the possibility of structures that can be dismantled. In addition, students will sort through contemporary mythologies as to what constitutes \”self-sufficient\” buildings, as well as other practices of sustainable design. Traditional oppositions between prefabrication, mass-production and sustainability will be re-visited and redefined.BackgroundDespite of best efforts from international and national agencies to promote rain forest conservation in Latin America, the Amazon basin has suffered rapid deforestation. This failure may be the result of unrealistic policies that do not address the palpable tension between local and multinational economic conditions. As part of conservation practices communities living near Rain Forests have been restricted from using rainforest land for food and firewood, and as a result they have found it increasingly difficult to meet their basic needs. In order to address the evident failure or Rain Forest Conservation programs, two alternatives have been developed in recent years: sustainable harvesting of forest products as well as the development of eco-tourism. This second strategy has been implemented in Latin America without much planning, and with dubious effects on the environment. The intention is to bring vacationers to \”experience the wilderness\” through a series of outdoor activities with \”minimal ecological impact\” as a way of creating an economic influx to the region while still preserving the fragile ecosystem of the rain forest. However, eco-tourism sites in Latin America have been developed without guidelines and without proper planning, resulting in tour groups that could be as large as 50 people at a time with excessive concentrations of amenities at a given site. This industry is growing at an accelerated pace, and will become a mayor economic force in the Amazon. It is thus imperative that appropriate models for implementation are developed, and that the real physical impact of eco-tourism be studied. Up to now, all construction that has been undertaken in the Amazon rain Forest completely lacks any form of research and continues building practices brought form the main cities. This pattern is not surprising, given the fact that urban centers in the Amazon are among the fastest growing in Latin America. The extensive urbanization of the Amazon basin has remained relatively unnoticed, completely overlooked by main-stream urban research. Mass media has constructed an image of the Rain Forest as \”the lung of the Earth.\” However this idyllic setting has for many decades been the home to several cities and towns with marked patterns of development and a thriving construction industry.Methodology:The Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and the School of Architecture of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito will organize a joint design studio, with students at both universities tackling the same issues. Very specific ecological, climatological, geological, cultural, political, economic and social conditions need to be taken into consideration throughout the design process; calling for a highly interdisciplinary approach to the problem of building in so-called ecologically sensitive sites.Research Studios of 12 students will be conducted simultaneously at the Graduate School of Design and at the School of Architecture in San Francisco de Quito. The Harvard Students will travel to Quito for four days to join the Ecuadorian students for a midterm review. Both groups will then travel together to the Amazon for five days, to visit a case study site