Tag Archives: bio-reconstruction

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Fighting ‘adobicide’ in post-earthquake Mexico

By Tracy L. Barnett

Editor’s note: After the earthquakes of Sept. 7 and Sept. 19 in southern and central Mexico, scores of architects, builders, engineers, designers and other experts stepped forward to help. A nascent natural building movement – known as “bioconstruction” or “bioarchitecture” here in the Spanish-speaking South – is pushing back against the dominant cement-and-steel model, seizing the opportunity to rebuild with an architecture that promotes longterm resilience and human, environmental and social wellbeing. The Esperanza Project took a trip to the earthquake zone to learn about a few of those initiatives.

Among the casualties of the September earthquakes in Mexico are thousands of antique adobe homes and the millennial architectural heritage they represent. A week after the quake, Architect Peter Van Lengen, the son of “Barefoot Architect” Johan Van Lengen, arrived in the town of Hueyápan, a Nahuatl-speaking town in the foothills of Volcano Popcatepetl, known for its rich arquitectural heritage of multi-story adobe buildings that date back more than a hundred years.

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Rebuilding Tradition in Hueyápan, Morelos

By Tracy L. Barnett

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series on bioconstruction, or natural building initiatives, in post-earthquake Mexico.

Visto from atrás, el Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, campanario cuarteada y lo que queda de su cúpula. (Tracy L. Barnett)
Seen from behind, the Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, with its bell tower cracked and what is left of the dome.  (Tracy L. Barnett)

When the earthquake struck the adobe-rich town of Hueyápan in the foothills of Volcano Popocatepetl, a circle of mourners surrounded their dearly departed in the colonial-era Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán. When the ground began to tremble beneath their feet, they made for the door – and just in time, as the nearly 500-year-old dome came crashing down around the dead man.

No one died in the earthquake here, the townspeople will tell you, but this moment will forever be seared into their memories. Never in half a millennia had the tremors that occasionally ripple through the region produced as much as a crack in the rock-solid Templo Santo Domingo. But this quake was different. More than 400 families in this little town alone were left homeless, and a millennial tradition of adobe homes was in danger of eradication.

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A House for Mari: Bioconstruction to the Rescue in Tetela del Volcán

Editor’s note: This photo story is part of a series about “bio-reconstruction” or natural building initiatives that are springing up in the wake of the earthquakes in Mexico. To follow some of these developments see the Facebook page for BioReconstruye México, a network of natural builders around the country who are sharing techniques and coordinating efforts to respond to the need for housing in ways that care for the environment.

By Tracy L. Barnett

Mari Neri Aguilar will never forget the terrible feeling of the ground heaving beneath her feet and the sounds of her home and those of the neighbors cracking and falling to the ground. She gives thanks that the quake happened in the daytime; otherwise, she says, “my children would no longer be with me, because their beds were filled with rubble.”

Mari and her four children lost their home in Tetela del Volcán, in the foothills of Volcano Popocatepetl in the Sept. 19 earthquake that hit Mexico City and the surrounding states.

Bioconstructor José Rosas of Valle del Bravo had done a project in the area and heard about Mari’s case. First he inquired through a friend whether she was up for it. When she agreed, he decided to organize a workshop to share some low-cost natural building techniques with the local residents – “to teach them to fish, instead of just giving them fish,” he explained.

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Bio-Reconstructing Mexico: Toward an Architecture for Life

By Tracy L. Barnett
For ArchDaily.com

Editor’s note: After the earthquakes of Sept. 7 and Sept. 19 in southern and central Mexico, a nascent natural building movement – known as “bioconstruction” or “bioarchitecture” here in the Spanish-speaking South – has stepped forward, seizing the opportunity to rebuild with an architecture that promotes long-term resilience and human, environmental and social wellbeing. This article is part of a series featuring a few of those initiatives.

In the days after the earthquake that brought reality crashing down for millions throughout central Mexico, Huerto Roma Verde, the community garden and green gathering space at the heart of one of the most stricken sectors of the city, was transformed into a major hub for emergency relief. With the help of more than 5,000 volunteers who arrived to lend a hand. Roma Verde became a civilian-organized shelter, community kitchen, aid distribution center and much more, offering a space for rescue workers, medics, attorneys, psychologists, chefs, bicycle and motorcycle brigades and professionals of all kinds to offer their services to a traumatized public.

In the ferment that arose in the round-the-clock disaster response, a vision evolved of a sustainable society arising from the rubble. By the third day, recalls Arnold Ricalde of Cuatro al Cubo, a network of environmental organizations connected with Roma Verde, immediate needs were being covered and it was time to look forward to a sustainable reconstruction.

Bio-Reconstruye Mexico,” they called it, a reconstruction initiative based on the Spanish word for natural building techniques – bioconstruction, an architecture of life. Continue reading