Wednesday, November 3, 2010

San Juan de Pirque

It was a long metro ride, then a bus, then a walk up a mountain to finally find Daniela´s house, a strawbale house clad in a mix of clay earth, flour and water, straw and animal manure. It was amazingly hot when I arrived (for an english person) and I walked into a lovely cool house. I didn´t realise how bales could also act as thermal mass when combined with an earth based covering, but it is really working. Even when it has been over 30 degrees outside and uncomfortably hot, it is cool inside. They also operate a passive solar system, where the house faces north but has shading so that the really high sun cannot enter, but the low winter sun can. Daniela tells me the house is also cosy in winter.

Daniela (from Chile) and Dallas (from California) have been living here for 2 years and in that time have also designed and built another house of light straw clay for Daniela´s mother and they are currently building casa caracol (snail house) which they hope to rent. Daniela and Dallas previously worked on a project with NGO Costa Sur to come up with a new way of building with poorer families who had suffered in the earthquake and tsunami but had not received immediate help from the government. They built a house of light straw clay (originally a german method called Leichtlehm) in an area between Curanipe and Cobquecura. This house was so successful that Costa Sur are still using this method today and it also appeared in a magazine called Diseño + Arquitectura Latino America. 

Also living here are Daniela and Dallas´s two children and Gisele (also an architect) and her son. It is very communal and there is lots of ideas exchange going on. I am having a lot of fun :-)

This area where I am currently staying in the mountains is called los almendrales because there are so many almond trees grown here. They are having problems with the original founders of the area who are drying up the natural lagoon´s in order to build and sell more plots of land. In addition road building has caused erosion and diversion of some of the original waterways and trees are dying as a result. The original concept of the founders was to build and live ecologically, but things change and people get greedy, I suppose. The people of los almendrales are working together to form a group against too much building and are hoping to turn the area into a ecological reserve. Consequently there are lots of furtive meetings going on in various houses across this neighbourhood which is quite interesting.

The view from the house over the earth bench

A view into the valley

Sunset throws a pink hue across the mountains

Very deep orange

The ´street´ where I am staying

Another valley view

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