- Work Team: Carlos Blanco, Daniel Tobón
- Client: Fundacion Fraternidad Medellin
- Project Managers: Felipe Mesa, Federico Mesa
- City: Vigía del Fuerte
- Country: Colombia
Text description provided by the architects. To the township of Vigia del Fuerte, which is part of the department of Antioquia in Colombia, you can only arrive flying, on a one-hour flight with a small plane from the city of Medellín or helicopter, or in a seven-day boat trip along the Atrato river. The origin of its population is a mix of African descendants, mestizos and Embera indigenous people. These last ones live in nearby communities surrounding the little urban area located on the riverside. The roll of this new school is to receive these indigenous communities for short and constants periods of time throughout the year in which they live, sleep, get fed and receive education from elementary to high school programs without having to leave their tribes permanently.
The urban, social and ecological conditions of this location are very complex: once a year and during the monsoon season the river level rises and floods the town for several months, for which reason most of the buildings are stilted constructions and are connected to one another through a series of rudimentary wooden gangways. During the monsoon season communication is done via chalupas – a traditional fisherman’s small wooden boat- with which the people can move from one place to another when the roads disappear. Ailment and violence in the countryside areas of Colombia due to armed conflict have also affected the regular development of this community.
The new school building is located in the northern side of the town close to the rain forest. It is inserted in an orthogonal and elongated urban grid, occupying the vast majority of the utile area of the site and engaging with the gangway net of the town in a single floor plan. The school is conceived as a covered and flexible street that can be used and crossed from one side to the other and is supported by two parallel strips of classrooms, bedrooms, offices, bathrooms and services. The proposal aims to be permeable architecture regarding uses and materials articulated to the local weather and rural context.
The poor resistance of the ground forced the construction to be a very light weight building founded on more than 50 injected micro-piles with a medium length of 15 meters beneath the ground level supporting a stilted like structured slab of concrete columns and beams resistant to water and above the overflowing level of the river. From the concrete slab up, the structure is raised in steel to make it lighter but also resistant to the high humidity of the tropical humid ecosystem. For the facades the use of native wood was avoided due to the fact that they are endangered species and instead decided to use immunized pine wood grown in areas close to Medellín and transported by boat to the site. The roof is an alternation of thermo- acoustic translucent and opaque metal tiles. All the transportation of materials was planned with a lot of restriction of weight, size, budget and availability due to the difficulties to reach the town.