The trip to Ecuador is very educational and humbling for a designer like myself travelling for the first time in the South American region. Learning about the Culture, Life and the whole cacao production process starting from land selection, controlling the plant genetic attributes, the distribution of plants to the community, planting, nurturing, harvesting to the production of the actual chocolate bars intrigued me throughout the trip. These experiences definitely seeped into my mind when looking into the redesign effort at that time for the chocolate factory on the newly purchased site. Although the site submitted for the competition has now changed to a different location, interestingly, the original design for the factory / visitor center fits nicely onto the new site without needing any major reconfigurations.
As I’m moving into the design mode of the Geo-tourism lodge for Kallari, designing the 'story' for the lodges is the most interesting phase to me as a designer as it allows me to enhance the concept of the “Canopy’ created for the Factory / visitor center, while incorporating the essence of the cacao plant to narrate the story of the Kallari community.
The Addition - Beyond the Challenge
The addition of the lodges came about when we were in Ecuador as the community leaders informed us that the site were selected because of its strategic location as Kallari is currently working with the local government on a masterplan to create a ‘Cacao route’. Similar to the famous Andean route for Cañari-Inca culture in Ecuador, the ‘Cacao route’ will provide facilities along the route for visitors / tourist to immerse into the ‘ultimate Cacao experience’ of Ecuador. With this, came the ideas of the addition in providing Eco-lodges on the site. It might be a little confusing as I have mentioned Geotourism lodges previously but I think it is more appropriate to call it the Geotourism lodges than Eco-lodges due to several reasons mentioned below.
Geotourism is a new concept in redefining Sustainable tourism and Eco-tourism. National Geographic’s defines Geotourism as ‘tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents’.
The last point mentioning the well-being of its residents, to me, played a crucial role in the design for the lodges as it not only benefits the visitors, but also the local culture and its residents, in this case the Kallari organization and the Kichwa community.
Geotourism is synergetic, stresses on community involvement, providing the platform to inform both the visitors and enhancing the unique heritage of the local residents, benefitting the local residents economically, supports the integrity and uniqueness of the place and last but not least, providing an unique and authentic experience to the visitors while preserving its geological attributes.
Inspiration in designing the Geotourism lodges aka the
‘ Pod-lodge’ for Kallari
It has been an interesting journey to recap a few months back since the trip and looking back at sketches and thoughts made during November 2008.
The most interesting sketch was done while resting at a cafe after an exhausting but fruitful site visit with the community leaders.
Iinspired by cumulative experiences, I began to sketched a bunch of cross-sections of the cacao plant from the tree itself to the branch, leaf, flower, outer pod shell, inner pod shell, the pulp and seeds. But what intrigued me most at that time was how the seeds are connected by the central
strand and vice-versa how the strand holds the seeds together. This became the primary inspiration to the organizational diagram providing the connection of the new chocolate factory / visitor center to the pod-lodges on the cascading and sloped terrain of the site. After a few more ‘shell’ studies of the cacao pod, both the outer and inner shell, the section was then transformed into the design concept of the pod-lodges. It became the metaphor on the basis of design on how the structure and the unit modules came together. It is also crucial on how the pod-lodges integrate and placed benignly onto the existing landscape and environment, avoiding major disruption to the eco-system already existed. This translated into the lifting of the lodges on stilts that conforms to the challenging slopped terrain and minimizing the built footprint. The design of the Pod-lodge itself plays a vital role in the overall masterplan, continuing the design concept of the ‘Canopy’ for the factory created during the competition stage.
Each Pod-lodge facilities categorized by module types A,B and C ( A = 6 single units / B = 2 family units / C = Suites ) are strategically places on the site to provide unit privacy through orientation and planned landscaping. Solar panels are also incorporated into the design to generate power for each units. The primary perimeter wall of each Pod-lodge is operable using an accordian wall panel system. This provides a full extension of interior space to nature and within each panels, operable louvers are designed into each panels to provide the user controlled privacy and promote cross ventilation.
Similar to the concept developed for the factory, the roof overhangs to provide shade for the units. The roof also slopes inwards to channel the collection of rainwater down to a cistern below grade while enhancing the concept of outward reaching gesture connecting to the landscape.
In short, the design of the Pod-lodges will incorporate the essence of the cacao plant to tell the story of the Kallari organization and the Kichwa community.
- I will be posting more renderings + design sketches -
- Chunsheh Teo - Email me
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Developing Nations License License.