This project is for comprehensive community and housing research and design in the La Prusia neighborhood of Granada, Nicaragua. La Prusia is located along the road that connects the city of Granada and Lake Apoyo, both among the top tourist attractions in the Central American nation of Nicaragua. This neighborhood, however, does not share the benefits of the tourist industry and has fallen into levels of extreme poverty. For many years Casas de la Esperanza, our non-profit partner, has been working with the inhabitants of La Prusia to build homes, teach children, and provide communal technical training.
As part of their mission, Casas de la Esperanza approached Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2009 to propose a housing community design studio in La Prusia for 70-80 families.
The studio traveled to La Prusia to learn from about the community needs as well as study the context. The information gathered from the community, Casas de la Esperanza volunteers, city officials, and others was key in the design of the new housing community.
A few months after the studio ended the project was rethought and redesigned in a collaboration between DSGN AGNC‘s Quilian Riano and Estudio Teddy Cruz (Teddy Cruz and Cesar Fabela) with landscape assistance by Simon Bussiere and other support by the PARC foundation. What is shown below is the result of the redesign in 2010 and what Casas de la Esparanza is in the process of building.
The design of the masterplan was complicated by one major issue: a lack of reliable information about the site. It was known that topographic conditions and the location of trees were key to the design, yet such information was difficult to obtain. This was seen as an opportunity to challenge the hard-lined masterplan that sometimes dictates even the most minute details of a community. The masterplan starts out with one goal in mind: to save as many trees as possible while creating safe and flexible housing clusters. To reach this goal a set of simple directions are given to create a flexible urban armature, within which each house can be sited according to conditions on the ground. These instructions are simple and can be applied by anyone building the houses (local inhabitants, volunteers, or a professional construction crew) without much training.
La Prusia Construction Co.
Prior to design or construction, a major issue had to be dealt with: the road connecting La Prusia and Granada was in such disrepair that it could not be used for most of the year. This was a major problem for the inhabitants of La Prusia as they could not reach vital health, employment, and education centers in Granada. To begin to solve this problem in 2009 the GSD studio, along with Teddy Cruz and the Parc foundation, developed a plan to send a tractor and other tools (donated by PARC) to La Prusia. The goal was to help Casas de la Esperanza and the local inhabitants fix their road and at the same time jump start a local construction business. La Prusians were trained on how to use the machinery that acted as a seed on a budding construction company owned by La Prusians for their benefit.
In their first housing community, Casas de la Esparanza built 6m x 6m cement block houses with zinc roofs. We sought to maximize the potential for the houses to expand over time. To do that we broke the spaces of the houses and shifted them slightly to allow for the growth of two more rooms at either end. We then created a roof that is angled to one side, allowing for more light and air to penetrate the houses and for water to be collected in vegetated areas. Casas de la Esperanza has built 10 of these new designs and is starting the process to build another 60-70.
Sheds for Community Enterprises
This project also includes an area for the development of local micro-enterprises. The sheds are currently under construction.
-Comprehensive Housing and Community Design
–La Prusia, Granada, Nicaragua
DSGN AGNC TEAM:
-Quilian Riano, Project Leader
-Estudio Teddy Cruz
-Simon Bussiere and 2011 Ball State landscape architecture studio
-Casas de la Esperanza
-Harvard University GSD
-In Construction, Houses Built
** Full list of 2008 Harvard University GSD studio that began research in La Prusia:
Julia Watson MLA, DK Osseo-Asare MArch, Juliana Silbermins MAUD, Anne Vaterlaus MLA, Christine Canabou MArch, Quilian Riano MArch, Simon Bussiere MLA, Chris Ryan MArch, Sara Lynch MArch, Brian Yang MArch, Aron Chang MArch, Kristen Von Minden MArch, Doug Miller MArch; Directed by Teddy Cruz, assisted by Andrew Sturm.