"Architecture has to be seen as a process and not a result, the construction must be a collective decision between architects and community."
Enrique Villacís is an architect based in Quito. Together with Cynthia Ayarza and Lorena Rodríguez he has a studio called “En su sitio“, in which they practice participative design.
How did you start with “Con lo que hay” and “En su sitio”?
“Con lo que hay” and “En su sitio” came to life due to some coincidences – we were not planning to create an architecture office. I believe that you must know how to search in order to find. Together with Cinthia Ayarza I started “En su sitio” where we worked on different types of projects. Later we collaborated with Jose Maria and Handel Guayasamin, with whom we did a lot of projects like the second stage of “La capilla del Hombre” and we won several contests. Then, Cynthia began to work with the architect Erika Muñoz and they had a lot of work, so they asked me to create a little architecture studio. We started working on governmental projects, where we incorporated a participative process of design. Everything began when we realized that architecture has to respond to the place and also to the people. Then I started working at the university ‘PUCE‘ in Quito. I also involved my colleagues from the studio into these academic activities. We realized how important for students it is to confront real size projects. In workshops, we teach how to work with local people, materials and technologies. This workshop format took place in different academic contexts, like PUCE, the Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica and in different forums from other countries.
How is the process of working with the community and the participative design?
Gradually, the architects forget the main objective of architecture, they think in terms of results, not in terms of a process. When you see architecture as an object, the product that you are creating is going to reflect the architect`s characteristics instead of the people’s necessities. We see architecture as a process of enriching the quality of people’s lives, as a way to make people feel good where they are. As a process and not a project, the construction must be a collective decision between architects and community. We apply that process not only on community projects but also on all kind of designs created by people and architects. Participation doesn’t mean that the people’s ideas and dreams are going to be realized literally, however, it includes their needs.
What challenge do you see in the future?
Currently, 80% of Latin-American housing constructions are built in an informal way. The earthquake in April 2016 in Ecuador demonstrated that. Informal doesn’t mean that those buildings are outside the city. It means that those constructions don’t have high technical standards. We realized that with a bit of education we can already give valuable input so that good constructions can be created. We see architecture as a service. We will present this idea and hope that we can achieve something in medium- or long-term.
In 50 years, it’s expected that fossil fuel resources will disappear. Mobility will be complicated, we wouldn’t import anything for construction. Having this in mind, the solution that we must find has to be inside the country, in the local thinking and planning, in the place and in the people. We should not deny the international progress of technology, but we have to implement it locally. At the universities, we teach students to work in different situations with the community, preparing them for the future.
What is the most exciting thing for you to work with the community?
In life, I think there is a lot of unpredictability; it is within the different situations that happen to you on a daily basis. It is always exciting because I don’t know what is going to happen when working with the community: taking decisions generate risky situations. However, the work also brings satisfaction. In building with students and communities there are a lot of accidents but those accidents carry new possibilities and give you pleasure, and pleasure is what guides you.