Social Design Work in Mexico Brings Community, Solidarity and Local Materials Together

This project emerged during the summer of 2015, when CHOPEkE Collective, together with Paúl Pérez, a seminarian and active member of the group, visited the community of Santa Luisa de Marillac, located in the central periphery of Ciudad Juárez. At the time, members of the community had an "unworthy" space -as they called it- for their meetings and spiritual activities.

Previously, the space served as the main room of the house of approximately 50 square meters, which was modified to be used as a meeting space for prayer. As an architect with experience in the collective, Paul showed his sensitivity to see their needs and to find a way to work together with the community to solve their issues. 

This is how the dream of having a larger chapel began to echo and, as the community said, "a more worthy place to meet with God." The active members of the church sought to welcome more people who had left because of the infrastructure limitations. Since there were no economic resources, this was just the beginning. 

Cortesía de Colectivo CHOPEkE

In January 2015, CHOPEkE collective together with the community proposed the construction of a chapel dedicated to Santa Luisa de Marillac. The project was accepted with enthusiasm by all, who then proceeded without hesitation to start organizing the demolition of the previous structure to begin building their grand dream. After 6 months (in June 2015) and after several fund-raising activities, construction began. It's worth mentioning that from the start to finish of construction, not a single cent was paid for labor since it was the members of the community who provided their service and knowledge; all the hands, all the feet, and all the hearts that wanted to support the construction, were welcome. 

The chapel, the sixth project by the collective, puts to the service of the community the rural system of high socio-environmental impact. This is following the practices they learned from the one they consider to be their teacher, friend, and ally, the architect Juan Manuel Casillas Pintor, from the Architecture Laboratory Basic. The project followed construction techniques using straw bale walls that are thermal, durable, cheap and resistant, as well as the use of natural materials from the region such as mud, wood, and stone, employing the ancestral technique of bahareque to finish the pine walls. 

A clay straw system was used on the roof. The final finish was made with light mortar and paint made naturally with lime. This was a community experience that is rarely present in our society, where not only did support come in the form of the workforce, but also with food, drinks and spiritual support from the elderly or housewives who could not attend frequently.

Cortesía de Colectivo CHOPEkE

The Collective always seeks to promote architecture through collaborative work from a spiritual perspective, in view of the community, its unity and solidarity, while recognizing that each project is taken on at a personal scale by those who will inhabit it. Always starting from the Catholic Social Teaching philosophy and the preferential treatment of the poorest and the Earth, the goal is to turn away from individualism and the consumerist mentality, in which those who have less are not recognized but rather, they are marginalized and displaced.

The CHOPEkE Collective mission always promotes care and respect, while tirelessly seeking to restore the dignity that has been taken from both the poor and the Earth. The main interest of the project and its reflection is the recognition of the house, which is at the heart of every activity as well as a place of recollection and intimacy that is simultaneously outside (the Common House, the Earth), and inside (the home); and which will only be experienced existentially as a dwelling that stems from recognition and recollection.

Cortesía de Colectivo CHOPEkE

CHOPEkE collective is about to begin its seventh housing project, where the house is seen as the beginning of all human activity, because it is the background from which man unfolds his existence, that is, the house is the place where man lives and therefore, it is the place where he takes refuge, feels safe and covered. Therefore, the house is a place of recollection. It is an objective reality (the house is a material structure, a place) and subjective (man makes a structure or place habitable). From the house the man projects his daily life which we call existence, hence, for that reason, we reiterate, it is the beginning of all activity. 

This is how the community of Santa Luisa de Marillac took on and built what was for them, a dream, and which has become a testimony to community and solidarity, especially for those who still feel the impossibility of building grand dreams with empty hands. 

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Cite: Zatarain, Karina. "Social Design Work in Mexico Brings Community, Solidarity and Local Materials Together" [En Ciudad Juárez, México: Trabajo de diseño social, por Colectivo CHOPEkE] 05 May 2018. ArchDaily. (Trans. Gosselin, Marina) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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