Chira Project

LOCATION: Costa Rica

SUMMARY: “This recycle and community center for Women Association ADATA on Chira Island, Costa Rica, includes a work and social area. Apart from recycling it will be used for environmental trainings for schoolchildren, other inhabitants and tourists, making of handicrafts from recyclables, a daycare-center for children and meeting space.”

PROBLEM SPACE: “The project intends to have a positive effect on public health and the environment: presently there is no garbage collection whatsoever on the island; the 4000 inhabitants burn, bury or trash their (and the visiting tourists’) solid waste on land or in the sea. Diminishing the amount of garbage on the island (source for potential diseases and pollution) was the main reason for the women from ADATA to start recollecting recyclables. Moreover, they will teach the local population about garbage separation and environmental protection.

A third need is economically: Operational costs will be covered with the income from recyclables; the sales of handicrafts and receiving tourists will generate an additional income. This income diversification is key as 90% of the island population depends solely on artisanal fishing and strict environmental laws forbid fishing during 3 months of the year. Also, a maximum of local construction materials is used to stimulate the local economy.

Finally, the center offers a space for ADATA and other islanders to gather for meetings, events, trainings, exhibitions of handicrafts and a daycare-center. These necessities were identified via a participatory design process with gender focus; the interests of women, men, children and handicapped people are accounted for. ”

SOLUTION: “The project consists of the design and construction of a recycling and community center for an environmental women association (ADATA) on Chira Island in the Nicoya Gulf (Pacific Coast, Costa Rica). It includes recycling machinery and furniture to make the center operational at delivery, training of all 4000 inhabitants on recycling & environment, training of the women on making handicrafts from recyclables, and a daycare for their children while they are working.

The design is of high aesthetic and functional quality; it combines traditional ways of living with modern building techniques, integrating the use of renewable energies like daylight, rainwater and recyclables. It responds to practical and strategic needs of ADATA, achieved via a flexible feedback loop. Social spaces for the entire population are accounted for, allowing for local cultural expressions.

A multistakeholder approach made the project affordable: ADATA will be the owner and main user; financial and material donations were made by UNDP, NGOs, governmental institutions, private companies and crowd-funding via awareness-raising activities; technical assistance and logistic support is given by universities and companies; a manual will be elaborated by A01 and the Health Ministry to replicate the experience allover the country.”

UPDATE (2018): “We’re back on site with the Recycling and Community Center in Chira. Ground works and the foundations had been built in an earlier phase. Everything related to the building and physical infrastructure of any of our projects, we refer to as hardware. The educational campaign and sensitization of the local culture to use that “hardware” in the most effective and efficient way is the what we refer to as “software”. Especially the “software” has been worked on throughout the last years.

The current construction phase is organized by our foundation (A Foundation); the local workforce is financed by the Costa Rican Ministry of Work and Social Security. We expect to finish the building as visualized in the attached render within 4 months. These months coincide with a the time when fishing is forbidden in the Gulf of Nicoya in order for the local fish stock to recover. So the construction of the center creates a good alternative income for some of the fishermen and women meanwhile.

Last but not least, I would like to tell you that the Recycling and Community Center has been included in a bigger framework that we call the “Chira Project”. Based on an international exchange between local and abroad universities, different small-scale buildings and their respective “softwares” have been designed. We hope to build some of those in the near future, once the center is completed as a first physical intervention of the Chira Project. The Chira Project has first been presented in public at the Venice Biennial for Architecture in 2016.”

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CONTACT: [email protected]