• Traditional Housing & Public Policies: We recognize and value the ancestral constructive culture that the indigenous peoples have generated as a product: of the systemic understanding of the territory in which they live, of their cultural richness and the cosmovision of their people. It is through the exhaustive analysis of the vernacular housing and its evolution that we can understand the recursive relationship between climate, flora, fauna, territory, dwelling, food production, traditional uses and customs, as well as the architectural and spatial relationships that make up the “solar”, which is the basic territorial unit in rural communities. Traditional housing in Mexico is being rapidly transformed by various factors, including the urbanization of rural areas, government programs that promote and encourage the use of industrialized materials, and public housing policies that reject and deny the importance of vernacular building systems, causing aspirational imaginaries that resignify in a negative way the concept of decent housing.
  • Research and Territorial Understanding: Our work in the communities begins with the process of research and territorial understanding of the place from two basic perspectives: the view of the inhabitants (and human settlements) and the professional technical vision, thus combining the local and external knowledge to generate a complex territorial reading. We recognize and revalue the ancestral constructive culture that indigenous people have generated, as a product of the systemic vision of all the layers that shape the territory they inhabit, as well as their cultural richness and worldview. In addition to the this, the knowledge of the social structure and the degree of organization that exists in the community allows us to understand the participatory design strategies that we can carry out in conjunction with the villagers, as well as the social management necessary to carry out the constructive processes.
  • Participatory Diagnosis: How to understand and not to impose? Our work starts from understanding and identifying together the potential that the community has to develop the project regarding social organization, constructive skills, as well as available natural and human resources. We recognize ourselves as interpreters with another system of thinking and we are aware that openness and listening are our best tools. On one hand, carrying out the diagnostic process together with the inhabitants of the community, leads the way for participatory design to be adapted to the cultural, social, political, ecological, and economic context of that specific region. On the other hand, it becomes the basis from which: concept, strategy, social organization guidelines, and project criteria are constructed.
  • Social Management: We conceive social management as a continuous and open process in which the community supports itself with the creation of committees, a common organizational practice in indigenous communities, which allows them to define the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the project, as well as how to put into practice decision making in a democratic way. It is to this self-organization that, as a team, we join to analyze aspects such as logistics, work distribution, schedule and scope of the construction phase.
  • Participatory Architecture: To understand the multiple forms under which human habitat manifests, we have resorted to the democratic vision that participatory architecture gives us: the individuals of any social group and cultural context have a fundamental role in the identification of their needs and solutions for the future development of their environment. Its integrated approach respects all forms of life and leads us to conceive our architectural practice as a social process that promotes the exchange of technical and local knowledge. Participation proposes another way to approach architecture, where the users are placed at the center of the project, enhancing their autonomy, self-management, and empowerment. In this case, the role of the architect lies in advising, accompanying the technical and design processes, and being part of an exchange of knowledge during all the phases of the project.
  • Design Processes: On one hand, carrying out the diagnostic process together with the inhabitants of the community, leads the way for participatory design to be adapted to the cultural, social, political, ecological, and economic context of that specific region. On the other hand, it becomes the basis from which: concept, strategy, social organization guidelines, and project criteria are constructed. The participatory design process starts from this point, and the primary objective is to define the qualities of the architectural project based on the users own experience in terms of their particular ways of living. That is why, because we have different mental structures and complementary knowledge, that projects are immensely enriched when they arise from this methodology
  • Local Work & Materials: For the construction processes, local workers and technicians specialized in traditional materials are identified. They follow through on skills training for knowledge transfer and they guide the contributions that the community can make to the project, concerning labor and local materials. In this sense, part of the workforce is accomplished by “faenas” or “tequios”: forms of voluntary cooperation in indigenous communities, in which the sum of individual efforts results in collective benefits.
  • Production and Social Construction: In our work, participatory architecture guides us to recognize and revalue the culture of the original peoples; work together with them so that they can take their history into their hands through “appropriate and appropriable” projects, as described by the Mexican architect Carlos González Lobo. We consider that design in participatory architecture is only a small part of the set of processes in which architects accompany the communities in the production and social construction of their projects, recognizing that we are just one part of the whole of actors that contribute with their experience and knowledge.
  • Social Production of Housing: First Excercise. The first excercise of the project “Social Production of Housing” was developed in collaboration with the community of Tepetzintan (Puebla, Mexico). The project began in 2013 with the analysis of the local ways of living and housing models that were replicated through self-construction with the support of federal subsidies. This allowed us to understand the incompatibility between the traditional ways of living, the natural context and the prototypes developed in the locality. In this sense, the main objetives of the project were to generate, in a participatory manner, an appropriate and appropriable model of housing, incorporating the use of local materials as bamboo and stone. And also, the project aimed to improve the constructive techniques of the inhabitants (using local materials) through an exchange of knowledge with the community.
  • Social Production of Housing: Second Excercise. Due to the incongruence behind the public regulations of housing in our country, the first excercise was invalidated. Against this background, we decided to collaborate with the Union of Indigenous Cooperatives “Tosepan Titataniske” to manage a second exercise that eliminated the structural use of bamboo and allowed us to have access to federal subsidies. The second exercise proposes a mixed system of industrialized materials and local materials, which helps the villagers reduce the cost of their home from the contribution in kind of bamboo and labor, allowing to detonate local productive chains.
  • Productive Rural School: The project “Productive Rural School”, a concept that emerged fromfrom five design workshops carried out with the students of Tepetzintan (Puebla, Mexico), expresses the need to rethink the way of teaching and receiving education in rural areas. During the participatory workshops, the students proposed a project that transcends architecture and focuses on the rescue of local materials as bamboo, traditional planting techniques, the conservation of their mother tongue “Nahuatl”, as well as crafts teaching to detonate local productive chains, and prevent migration and social disintegration in the community.

In Comunal: Taller de Arquitectura we visualize our professional practice as a social and collective process in which the architects accompany the inhabitants in the management and social production of their habitat, recognizing that we are only one part of a set of actors that contribute with their experience, knowledge and technical advice. In this sense, we value the architectural object for its capability to be functional, formal and aesthetically appropriate to the essence of the place, culture and people, but above all, as the representation of negotiation processes between consensus and dissent. For this reason, we do not conceive architecture as a work of authorship or as a static, artistic and unmodifiable object, but as a living, open and evolving process that over time continues to adapt to the needs and aspirations of its users.

This approach to architectural practice has taken place for more than 50 years in our country (Mexico) and in Latin America through the ideological, political and democratic stance of the term “Social Production of Habitat”, whose notion understands the habitat as a social and cultural product that implies the active, informed and organized participation of the inhabitants in their management and development, under the control of self-producers and other social agents.

In this sense, we conceive participation, not as a matter of good faith, welfare or good will, but as a right that implies the recognition of the inhabitants as agents of action and not as agents of intervention. Therefore, our practice is based on a constant exercise of denunciation, democracy, social justice and defense of human rights, through which we advocate the construction of an inclusive, collaborative and congruent society.