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Esquela San Lucas
Tejalpa, Morelos, Mexico 1995-1997

Thanks to the community’s drive and expertise in cracking huge volcanic rocks, their first road paved the way for a cistern and a pavilion collaboratively built and decorated by the students, a local Seattle artist, Linda Beaumont, and the community. The expressiveness of the pavilion perhaps is due to the practicality of the road and cistern that were built during this studio. The brick columns twist as they rise to support the thin-shell barrel vaulted roof. The mosaics are created from resident’s broken dishes, glasses, bottles, and tiles.

Though the government had turned down Tejalpa for building a new school, it would have to provide teachers if the school was built by the community. Natalia Acuna is one such teacher who was able to motivate and organize the school’s future students into helping with the construction by forming an assembly line of people carrying buckets of cement. The community produced concrete block, pre-stressed pre-cast concrete beams, and infill blocks to build the structure. These were used to construct a passive solar building elongated along the east/west axis with a shed roof opening to receive the northern ambient light. Traditional Mexican buildings have surrounding walls. However, this site was the nexus of several paths the locals used to go harvest roots, vegetables, and herbs, so the students chose to leave the school campus open to accommodate this traffic.

The rough terrain and the desire for a traditional Mexican courtyard required the second school building to be oriented along a north-south axis, stretching south from the east end of the first building. This orientation created a shading challenge for the students to solve. The addition of buttresses on the western courtyard façade interrupts the sun’s hot rays and creates a shady loggia in front of the building. Eventually, the community would come together again and build a third classroom building across the courtyard along the south side, enclosing the courtyard space. This was a young community in danger of filling up with delinquent youths with no hope for the future....We were each trying to solve our problems by ourselves, and the biggest lesson you taught us is the lesson of collective work, that together we could make a difference in our lives.

–Natalia Acuna, Maestra at Escuela San Lucas