The offices of Caá Porá, Siete86 and Ingeniera Alternativa have released designs for “Palenque Cultural Tambillo,” a cultural center dedicated to the artistic tradition of marimba music in the Afroecuadorean town of Tambillo, Ecuador. Consisting of a performance and meeting hall, two multi-use classrooms, rehearsal spaces, an artisanal instrument workshop and ecologically friendly public bathrooms, the project is planned to become one piece of a network of cultural centers to be built in the UNESCO heritage province of Esmeraldas.
The team began a process of research and design workshops with the community of Tambillo in October 2015 to determine the center’s needs. The main desire of the community was for a place where they could preserve their cultural history, built from traditional construction methods.
Building in a protected ecological reserve and in a mangrove forest presented unique engineering challenges for the project, but also opportunities to learn from local techniques. One such solution was the use of oyster and conch shells discarded by the fishing industry as aggregate to strengthen the project’s rammed earth walls and concrete foundation. The main structure of the performance hall is made of responsibly-sourced wood and is covered with a palm thatch roof, while classroom and workshop buildings feature zinc roofs lined with acoustical and thermal insulation.
The main hall also features a sand floor similar to the dance floors used in traditional dance ceremonies, while musicians are elevated to a mezzanine level to keep the floor space as open as possible and provide seating areas for spectators. To optimize acoustics, the palm thatch roof has been designed to absorb excess percussive sound. The entire roof then tilts to create views out to the nearby mangrove forest.
The buildings have been designed to be cost-accessible and easily constructed, while also able to resist the heavy rainfall and earthquakes that are a part of Tambillo’s climate and environment. The project also uses locally-sourced materials to reduce its overall ecological impact – important in a region where concrete block and other less sustainable materials have become the most common construction elements.