Working with a native Ecuadorian plant to build inhabitable cubes

Dec 27, 2016

By Lidija Grozdanic

We love experiments in vernacular design and sustainable materials, including this fascinating project from Ecuador.

Artisans and architects with the Archquid think-act tank teamed up recently to design and build a colorful, inhabitable cube using Totora, a fibrous plant native to South America. Working with the indigenous community of San Rafael de La Laguna parish, the architects played with different weaving techniques for the panels, creating a multifunctional structure installed along a busy road in the Otavalo province of Imbabura.

For centuries, the Totora plant has been used to make floats, mats, fans and baskets throughout South America. The art of weaving this abundant vegetable fiber has been a part of Ecuador‘s cultural vernacular since pre-Incan times.

Inspired by these ancient practices, which are deeply rooted in the local community, the architects set out to explore the Totora’s architectural potential. The resulting cubic volume features a wooden structure formed by two beams with support strips and joints, and nine panels on each side handcrafted using different weaving techniques. The project has been recently honored in the Twentieth Pan-American Biennial of Architecture in Quito, with the International Award in the “Habitat and Development” category.

See the Totora Slideshow.


Credit: Inhabitat,

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