Al Borde was founded in Quito in 2007 by David Barragán and Pascual Gangotena; in 2010, Maria Luísa Borja and Esteban Benavides joined the studio.
Al Borde’s approach to community architecture has been shaped by three “Hope Projects,” Escuela Nueva Esperanza (2009), Esperanza Dos (2011), and Ultima Esperanza (2014). These were sited in Puerto Cabuyal in the Manabi Province, a fishing village of about 35 families who subsist on fishing and agricultural activities.
Al Borde was initially invited to the village by Gangotena’s cousin who was teaching literacy in the village. Beginning with the $200 design challenge, Al Borde developed the three “Hope Projects” while building an ongoing relationship with the community. That relationship bore fruit well beyond physical structures – the community-based approach favored by Al Borde taught the community that the resources (both human and natural) to design and build were already present in their community. Beyond the Hope Projects, the villagers started integrating the discovered materials and design strategies into their own self-built structures. The process itself was catalytic, turning an entire village into designers and builders.
Such is the point of Al Borde’s process: the designer can serve a community best when they make themselves obsolete. In Barragán’s words:
“We are never looking for a form when we are designing… All of the forms are the consequence of a very rational thinking process. We want to transmit this rational thinking process so that the community can create new projects on their own and feel free to explore space in other ways. We created this educational opportunity because we don’t want to be necessary.”
We had an opportunity to speak with David Barragán about how design can empower a community to become their own designers and builders on Social Design Insights. Listen to Episode 13 | How to Design a School for $200 here.