A research partnership has been forged between ETH Zurich and two Colombian Universities (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and Universidad de La Salle) as well as AWAI, the Inga Territorial Entity, with the aim to collectively develop participatory cartographic representations of Indigenous territories in Colombia’s southern Andean Amazon region and a system of architectural designs that will host the future Biocultural Indigenous University. The combined design project operates on different scales to support a better understanding of indigenous territorial configuration toward higher education.
Arquitectura y territorio, emitida en pedagogicaradio, 2021
Conversación de Marcela Bravo Osorio con Santiago del Hierro, a propósito de las posibilidades del diseño arquitectónico como forma de aportar a los procesos de defensa de los territorios. En el caso particular desde sus vivencias en este momento, como solidario del proceso que adelanta el pueblo Inga de Colombia, en tanto el proyecto de creación de la Universidad Panamazónica Biocultural.
Scale 5 - Region: interweaving an Amazonian territory as University
The Biocultural University is a project for territorial consolidation that aims to reconnect indigenous communities (resguardos and cabildos) that have been fragmented by centuries of colonialism and decades of armed conflict. Building and landscape interventions will conceptually and physically weave together Inga jurisdictions and sacred places that extend from the Andes mountains to the upper Amazon basin in the southwest of Colombia. The university’s “campus” will consist of a series of spaces for thought (tulpa iuiai) in response to the different pedagogic, social and political requirements of each location. The pathways (ñan) between these sites will not only act as connectors but as key learning environments.
Scale 4 - Municipality: the University as a local catalyst
Indigenous sites that host infrastructure for the Biocultural University will play an important role within their immediate contexts. In sensible interaction with adjacent forests, farms, resource extraction sites and urban settlements, these locations will aim to activate social, environmental and economic processes. A first pilot project will be a Biocultural Corridor that connects the Auka Wasi Natural Reserve to the city of Piamonte, passing through El Tambor, a 90-hectare plot of land where the University’s initial infrastructure will be built. Along this passageway, community-led initiatives for forest conservation and restoration, agroecology, and sustainable urban planning will become a first research collaboration between the new University and the Municipal Government of Piamonte.
Jhon and German Mojomboy
Scale 3 - Site: University buildings in connection to the forest
El Tambor is strategically located in connection to several Inga settlements. It is in a highly biodiverse sloped forest surrounded by creeks, where the Andes mountains disappear and the Amazon basin begins. Buildings in this site will be organized according to the natural and spiritual logics established by community leaders (mamas and taitas). Footpaths will connect buildings to the surrounding forest and to special locations for sacred Ambiwaska ceremonies. Construction materials will mostly come from the site. In this sense, the university will be “planted” beforehand to guarantee the sustainable provision of wood and bamboo (guadua) through agroecological plots (chagras), spaces that will also provide the university with healthy local food and medicinal plants.
Scale 2 - Building: innovative and community-based architecture
Architecture for the university will be co-created by a team of Inga construction experts, in collaboration with architects and engineers from Colombia and abroad. Buildings will shelter indigenous education in close symbiosis with nature. The construction process will be based on the minga, an ancestral indigenous practice which calls upon the whole community to work collectively towards a common goal. This form of cooperation is also a moment to share food, stories and music, where people of all ages meet in celebration of what is being achieved. A first building (tulpa) is being planned for the site of El Tambor. This will be a highly symbolic space where the exchange of knowledge around the fire will be honoured.
Concepción Tisoy Mansajoy, Maestra Tejedora Inga del Valle de Sibundoy
Scale 1 - Detail: weaving vernacular construction with contemporary techniques
Research with local builders on local, natural, non-standardized construction materials will strengthen the knowledge of vernacular construction techniques that are disappearing. Different types of wood, palm, bamboo, natural fibers, and earth will be used in both traditional and innovative ways, to create an architectural language which is locally pertinent and technologically propositive. Ancestral weaving techniques for thatched palm roofs will be combined with new building methods like bamboo non-glued laminated beams and compressed earth blocks. The richness of Inga graphic symbolism will also appear at this smallest scale, imprinting ancestral knowledge in architectural interiors.
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