La Apoteka: A stone, brick and bamboo workshop
In the middle of the tropical forest of Mazunte, a permaculture center has grown. La Apoteka is the structure to host workshops, to store tools, to welcome guests around permacultural work. Design by Timur Ersen Architect and build with 3 local workers, the client and the architect, the project is made with local resources like hand made firebricks, bamboos, plans leaves, earth and stone. La Apoteka tries to fit to the place without breaking the untouched natural harmony of the tropical forest.
The building has a hybrid structure, with load-bearing firebrick walls attached to a bamboo framework. This framework consists of seven arches connected by metal supports to the stone foundation on the north façade and to the brick wall in the south. In the Mazunte region, houses are usually built with brick walls within a concrete frame. Local workshops producing handmade firebricks are common in this region and we wished to make full use of the qualities of this material. Therefore, the load-bearing walls of the structure would be formed of these bricks. Considering the expense of metal and concrete in Mexico, we tried to minimise their use. With bamboo and firebrick as the main materials, we also endeavoured to build the palm roof and the stone foundations with local materials. One of the central principles of this project was to collaborate with local craftspeople and to use their materials and skills. By experimenting with details, new structures and shapes, we intended to produce a new perspective another vision of their work.
The tropical climate divides the year into two seasons: hot and dry in winter, hot and wet in summer. Considering this, we decided on an open facade to the north and a larger wall to the south, creating a fresh atmosphere in the entire building. The brick patterns used are designed to create large hollow walls, increasing the level of insulation. The south facade has a particular design: inspired by Laurie Baker's work, it slopes outward due to regular spacing of the bricks. Each layer is making shadow on the next during the hottest time of day, keeping the facade pleasantly cool.
From the design to the use, the project is built around collaboration between the architect, client and construction team. In this project, the architect is both designer and worker; the client participates in both conception and construction.
In Europe, our educational system creates design specialists, making this kind of collaboration difficult. As recent graduates, our lack of knowledge of techniques and materials separates us from the builders. Building a house as a harmonious collaboration between bricklayers, architects and clients, is unusual in Europe. We tried it in Mexico: at the end, we found we had a strong construction team, imbued with a sense of common purpose. Many decisions were made on the construction site, after considering the opinion of all.
In this context, we organized a workshop for the construction of a rammed earth floor in the bedroom. Four French architects joined the team for this enterprise. We made many different samples of rammed earth floors to optimise this process and to demonstrate it to visitors and builders.
A building site can be a source of creativity, sharing and thought. It is an experimental platform which creates more than architecture. Thanks to Pauline Sémon, architect and artist, who drew the story of the workshop every day, we can share the building process that our team developed.