When Traditional Techniques marry Contemporary Architecture.
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
The architecture of indigenous peoples is deeply rooted in their surroundings, in the sense that materials are locally sourced and empirically tested, to discover the construction techniques and dwellings that best respond to the values of the community and their understanding of housing. The situation in the Amazon is no different. Many different groups of people have settled on the land and water, developing many unique building skills that attract a lot of architects working in these regions. As a result, there is an exchange of knowledge, combining native cultures and novel architecture.
"Let's try to shake things up a bit and change everything we have learned and have become used to, so we can try to toss away inadequate concepts of construction, solutions, and spaces, and using creativity, safety, and courage, replace them with other strategies that are more suitable to our [Amazonian] region, for the benefit of the people who live here, in the houses that are built here." These were Severiano Porto's closing remarks during the "Artes Visuais na Amazônia" (Visual Arts in the Amazon) Seminar, in 1984.
Severiano Porto is one of the greatest Brazilian architects, and by acknowledging the rich building traditions in the Amazon, he reveals the importance of using this knowledge to achieve environmental goals while employing local techniques and resources. The architect transformed his view of architecture by learning from people who acquired their skills through lived experience, not by going to school, and was able to create unique modern buildings that perfectly fit the Amazonian context.
Things are not so different nowadays. When faced with the challenges of building in remote areas - which are difficult to get to, therefore, making traditional construction methods unaffordable, - while still searching for eco-friendly solutions, using local materials and techniques is the best way to create a true connection with the environment, instead of introducing foreign architectural languages into the Amazonian landscape. We have selected three projects that have successfully applied these solutions.
"We used indigenous people's skills with wood and vines to build the roof and also the 1.50m wide peripheral structure that 'wraps' the core of the building, protecting it from the weather and providing space for all the vertical and horizontal circulation, such as verandas, balconies, and stairs. This way, life in the building relates to the surroundings at all times, visually, by allowing people to see and be seen, and also in terms of construction, with the use of wood and straw through local techniques."