I was invited by a close friend, the project’s founder, to assist in the construction of a four-room schoolhouse for the children of the 60-person hamlet of Ch’allmachimpana, 14,000 feet up in the Andes and a three hour hike from the nearest village.
The school project is part of a larger initiative to prepare the people of Ch’allmachimpana for their inevitable interface with the modern world while maintaining their cultural heritage. Ayni, the importance of reciprocal sharing, and animu, awareness of an animated essence in all things, govern daily life and were upheld and applied throughout the build.
The project was an essential return to basics before beginning my architecture education. The building, designed and constructed in the Q’eros tradition, used a structural system, methods of material collection and preparation, and finishing that have remained virtually unaltered for hundreds of years.
As beavers build damns or birds build nests, the Q’eros people construct with an innate sense of purpose and efficiency, producing a building that seems to grow from its mountain base.