Chamanga Cultural Center project named finalist in FIBRA Award
Author: Karen O'Donnell Stein
Posted: August 21, 2019

The FIBRA Award named the Chamanga Cultural Center design-build project as a finalist in the category of Filtering and Shading. The joint project is the result of a collaboration between Portland State University School of Architecture and Center for Public Interest Design, the Munich University of Applied Sciences, and University of Tokyo. 

The international competition honors the use of plant-based construction materials. “The purpose of this first World Prize for Contemporary Plant Fiber-Based Architecture is to showcase the aesthetic properties, the construction advantages and the environmental benefits” of renewable plant-based building materials such as bamboo, straw, reed, and other natural substances, according to the award’s statement of objectives. The award is a response to the call for a significant reduction of buildings’ environmental footprint that was agreed upon at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Among many benefits, plant-based materials limit energy usage over the life cycle of built structures, and they help to reduce the use of non-renewable resources, in addition to increasing economic stability in regions where they are grown. 

The Chamanga Cultural Center, located in Chamanga, Ecuador, is constructed primarily from bamboo and brick that were locally and ecologically sourced from the surrounding forests, as were the hardwoods used in the interiors. The new structure replaces a former community gathering place for Opción Más, a local youth music initiative, which was destroyed in a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2016. The program serves more than 60 youth in this small fishing town, providing them with opportunities to learn theatre, music, radio broadcasting, and recording. With the construction of the new building, the program has a chance to expand while deepening young people’s connection to Chamanga’s cultural identity through the arts.

PSU architecture and public interest design students traveled to Ecuador in 2017 to help design and begin construction of the new structure. Student groups from the partner universities followed to complete the construction.

The Chamanga design-build was selected as one of 50 finalists out of a total of 226 submissions from 45 countries around the world. The winning projects will be announced at the World Summit of Territories on Bio-based Construction in fall 2019 in Paris, and the top 50 structures will be presented in a traveling exhibition and an illustrated book, which will be launched at the summit.

Learn more about the FIBRA Award here.

Photo: Santiago Oviedo