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Productive Rural School

Bachillerato Rural Digital No. 186 + Comunal

Tepetzintan, Mexico

August 2018


Bachillerato Rural Digital No. 186 + Comunal



Bachillerato Rural Digital No. 186


Onnis Luque Rodríguez


The project was created autonomously through five Participatory Design workshops and knowledge exchanging -between the student community and Comunal- where the students established the concept «Productive Rural School», conceiving not only an architectural project suitable to its socio-ecological context, but also a new way of conceiving education: an intercultural pedagogy that advocates for the defense of the language, the rescue of traditional constructive knowledge and the conservation of local trades, preventing the internal and external migration of young people.

The students presented the project to the community and the inhabitants decided to support it. The land was donated by the community assembly, the parents created a committee to organize the collective work -faena- and the local materials were donated by the students and their families, who requested our organization -Comunal- construction workshops with bamboo. The school was built with mutual aid schemes between parents and students, contributing to the production and transmission of intergenerational knowledge and the strengthening of community ties.

This collaborative project was guided by the approach of Participatory Architecture and the Social Production of Habitat [PySH, by its Spanish acronym], whose notions comprehend people as subjects of action and not as objects of intervention, proposing a new role for architects through integral accompaniment -technical and social- and the horizontal exchange of knowledge. This vision recognizes participation, in architectural design and habitat production, as a human right and an ethical-political positioning for the construction of spatial justice.


In Mexico, public policies related to education are disconnected from the rural reality of the native nations. They reproduce colonization and racism through educational programs that impose the Spanish language on young students and force them to abandon their original language (Náhuatl), in order to obtain an educational degree recognized by the State.This leads to the loss of epistemic diversity and other ways of narrating and understanding the world.

In addition to educational programs, public policies also impose the way of building schools through official construction regulations that deny the use of vernacular materials such as bamboo, reed, palm, wood and earth, among others, since they are considered precarious and structurally inefficient materials. This type of regulation denies native nations the possibility of self-producing schools with traditional construction systems, ancestral collective knowledge and mutual aid schemes, homogenizing not only the language and philosophy of life, but also the diverse ways of inhabiting the world through complex and holistic thinking that recognizes the multiple dimensions of habitat: socio-cultural, economic-productive and territorial-environmental.

It is in this political and social context that the student community of Tepetzintan decided to design and self-produce their own educational space using the approach of participatory architecture, collective construction knowledge, materials from the region and mutual aid schemes, as tools for the creation of an intercultural pedagogical space. In this sense, the management, design and self-production of the "Rural Productive School" becomes a process of collective learning in itself, involving the horizontal exchange of knowledge between multiple actors.


The Productive Rural School was conceived as a collective project and a progressive process for social transformation, rather than an authorial architectural object. The spaces built during the first stage -two classrooms and a service module- meet the educational needs of 82 enrolled students -130 graduates-, all of them young Nahuatl speakers from 7 towns in the Northeast Sierra of Puebla: Tepetzintan, Anaytitan, El potrero, Cozamalomila, Ayotzinapan, Pixapan and Acaxiloco. The school functions as an intercultural pedagogical space that promotes new ways of designing and self-producing educational spaces at local and regional levels.

In 2019, the students managed funds for the implementation of productive and artistic workshops: construction with bamboo, textile design, drawing -artistic and mural-, elaboration of preserved food, orchards, and composting. These workshops respond to the pedagogical strategy of «learning-by-doing», which breaks with educational paradigms based on repetition, competition and individualization.

In 2020, the educational and architectural project was supported by the "National Fund for Culture and the Arts" [FONCA, by its Spanish acronym] to develop a traditional medicine manual -relevant in the covid-19 pandemic- a compilation of stories and the creation of poems in Nahuatl, allowing young people to connect productive work with artistic exploration and develop pedagogical material in their native tongue. Currently, both the student community and our civil organization -Comunal- are working together in the management of funds for the construction of a second stage.

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