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Fusing Vernacular and Contemporary Technologies

A Mexican studio is designing buildings that are relevant to the rural communities they are being built for. Susanne Kennedy investigated.

Fusing Vernacular and Contemporary Technologies


October 9th, 2014



A commitment to revive the informed use of traditional Oaxacan materials and techniques by Mexican architecture firm, Rootstudio, led to the construction of Rural Sports Centre in San Pedro Apóstol, Oaxaca, México, which fits the community like a glove.

‘Rural Sports city is an example of good contemporary earth construction,` said Joao Caeiro of Rootstudio. `The nature of the traditional materials and original techniques have been respected, without denying the possibilities of contemporary materials and new technologies.`




The sports centre was made possible by numerous sponsors, namely Nike, Harp Helu Oaxaca, the Oaxacan Government and Architects for Humanity. Community members contributed considerably to the design and construction process, and architects and students traveled from around the world to participate in earth construction workshops and the building process.

`We are advocates of ancestral earth construction and vernacular materials – like adobe, stone, tiles, bricks, lime and bamboo – because they have relevance to the local climate, culture and social character`, said Caeiro. ` But these materials are also beautiful and they have durability and resilience when used correctly.`



While the original project idea was for a basketball space for the youth of San Pedro Apóstol, the dreams of community members and designers evolved over athree year period to be much more.

Consequently, the final sports centre iscomprised of a soccer field, the planned basketball court, a gymnasium, kayaking and water sports area (adapted from an existing dam), change rooms, a medical office, outdoor kitchen and multipurpose area and a children`s area.




By accommodating a range of physical activities and drawing different segments of the community together, this multi-function facility contributes to social cohesion as well as health and wellbeing; and its location just 120 meters from a primary school is an additional asset with respect to community health promotion.

Like most of the local materials used in the Centre`s construction, the intricate bamboo webbing seen on the ceilings of its external structures is both strong and beautiful. This feature also serves as an appropriate metaphor for both the weft and weave of ancestral and contemporary methods and the cooperative model that gave birth to this vital community building.





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