The new campus of Universidad del Isthmo is located on a beautiful hillside in the rapidly growing community of Santa Isabel near Guatemala City, Guatemala. Sasaki Associates designed the 49-hectare site, and the first phase of the plan, which consists of the heart of campus, is currently undergoing implementation. The university aims to enroll approximately 6,200 students in successive stages of implementation over 20 years. The educational objectives and mission of the university include a strong focus on the individual and the community within the learning environment. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The form of the new campus is a response to the university’s social goals and commitment towards contemporary learning relationships. Taking into account the ecological forces and systems that influence the site, together with a careful positioning and orientation of new buildings to promote natural ventilation and daylighting, the campus is a model of sustainable strategies.
The first phase features key civic components: the campus central plaza, the library, the campus center, and the rectory. From this core, the rest of the campus will grow over time along a linear landscape spine linked by shaded walkways. As part of the foundational phase, all academic programs and academic support areas are brought together into three flexible buildings, until academic department complexes are built around them and their spaces are reclaimed for academic support uses. The sharing of space among faculties provides an unprecedented interdisciplinary experience, helping the school transition into a new pedagogic model. As the campus extends into academic neighborhoods, instructional, research, and student life spaces will continue to be shared—promoting the same interdisciplinary collaboration of the campus beginnings.
The first phase is designed as a largely passive development that draws upon the site’s resources and unique climatic conditions to function. The project integrates building, infrastructure, and landscape solutions to manage water on site, conserves and reuses the heavy volume of stormwater, and helps revert existing erosion processes. The buildings are naturally ventilated using exposed transient spaces like circulation areas, verandas, and patios as weather protection and air exchange spaces. Electricity, waste treatment, and stormwater collection systems are designed as modules capable of managing and monitoring the performance of individual building and site parcels.
The plan responds to its site context through a variety of conservation and development strategies. These strategies provide the continuation and restoration of existing natural ecosystems including the Mediterranean pine reforestation in the hillside, the extension of the forested prairie in the elevated plateaus, and the conservation of wetlands, open springs, and streams as part of the larger watershed in the valley.
Architects: Sasaki Associates Location: Fraijanes, Guatemala Client: Universidad del Istmo (UNIS) Team: Dennis Pieprz & Pablo Savid, Principal in Charge; Philip Parsons, Academic Planner; Romil Sheth, Urban Designer; Roberto Viola Ochoa, Architect; Vee Petchthevee, Landscape Architect; Nicole Gaenzler, Landscape Architect; Anthony Fettes, Ecologist; John Barker, Jr. Designer; Athena Patira, Jr. Designer; Jeanette Pastrana, Jr. Designer; Rhadika Mahan, Landscape Designer; Hsing-Chih Lee, Urban Designer Services: Architecture, Planning, Landscape Architecture, Strategic Planning, Urban Design, Sustainable Solutions Materials: Walking paths: pebbles, concrete; Lighting: floor washlights, fluorescent light; Plants: almond tree, pine trees, aromatic plants; Others: green colored asphalt, artificial grass Size: 49 hectares; 126,800 m2