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Colegio El Cultivo La Leona

Planos Vivos

Cajamarca, Tolima, Colombia

May 2023


Simon Hosie (Lead Architectural Design)


Pablo Lissa (Architecht), Paola Macia (Interior Design Architect), Ivan Yepes (Engineer)


Crepes & Waffles


Andres Valbuena & Rio Representa


La Leona is an architectural project that redefines design principles for public rural schools in Colombia through three fundamental strategies: the relationship with the context, the interaction with others (human and non human), and the revaluation of local culture. To achieve this, the building incorporates the landscape as its main pedagogical medium, drawing inspiration from the terraced levels of indigenous Andean farming. Gently settled on the mountain slope,the school is terraced to host a sequence of three equivalent spaces in each level: the classroom, for general knowledge of public education; an outdoor terrace for meditation and social interaction; and a cultivation terrace, where traditional farming crafts are learned from the elders.

The project revolves around the importance of walking as a learning space. The architecture proposes a continuum of the farmers' journeys as moments for the transmission of mountain secrets to their children, providing knowledge on the power of healing plants and wildlife. In this regard, the classroom is no longer the only learning space, extending pedagogy to its immediate landscape through gardens and trails as key places where knowledge is built. The circulation area is also the place where sunlight gets filtered through a wooden lattice and gathering occurs.

The educational program, based on curiosity and exploration outside of traditional spaces, is enhanced by the addition of mobile technologies, which expand the relationship with the ecosystem, fostering the interest of many young people to become nature-guides as well as future farmers that wish to remain in their land.


Nested in the Andes mountains of the Cajamarca region, the project departs from the necessity to relocate 450 students that attended class in an existing building from the 1960s declared at risk for potential landslide.

Based on an architectural design that is responsive to both the local landscape and farming culture, the new infrastructure gently settles on a mountainside, between the cloud forest and the Anaime River. The architecture takes root in the terrain, anchoring itself to the natural topography with volumes in concrete and sturdy wood from the region, echoing the existing Urapanes (trees) and continuing the adaptive local typologies, with gabled roofs and wooden structures supported by rocks.

The project is a milestone in terms of avant garde public policy to finance rural school infrastructure, as Crepes and Waffles, client and promoter, designed and built the school using the mechanism “Infrastructure for Taxes”. The mechanism allows private companies to pay taxes by building public infrastructure in regions that were affected by armed conflict in Colombia. The initiative forms part of a situated practice of the company in the region aimed at building fair-trade agreements with smallholders of the region for food sourcing since 2017, after Cajamarca organized a historical plebiscite that protected its fertile agricultural land from becoming a mega-mining district.

The new infrastructure offers a safe, orderly, clear, enduring, and low-maintenance space, embracing the mountain and its context, stimulating learning beyond traditional spaces, for a proudly mountain-based education, grounded in the knowledge and wisdom of the farming community of Cajamarca.


Functionality and accessibility have ensured the use and access to all spaces. The central courtyard with green terraces is a space of serenity and peace, summoning residents to enter into direct connection with the landscape, its sounds, and sensations.

In the unique central building space with double height, there arises the sensation of being on the only solid terrace, among all the grass ones descending the mountain towards the river. The community has taken ownership of this space and the open stage for all kinds of events.

The building was developed to open spaces to different forms of learning, with infrastructure that has expanded its scope as a technical education and trades center for adults, with programs from universities and SENA (techincal education), which make use of the laboratories, language classrooms, and systems, but also of the kitchen classroom, where balanced nutrition and the transformation of agricultural foods into marketable products are taught, stimulating entrepreneurship and interaction between young people and adults.

This project opened a dialogue with the Ministry of Education, enabling the publication of the first guidelines for designing rural schools in Colombia. Before the project, rural schools were subjected to a national public school regulation that was thought for urban areas; thus, it did not respond to local conditions.

Taking into account the impact on the well-being of communities and public regulation, Crepes and Waffles has announced the consolidation of a development pipeline to keep on building rural public schools in Colombia on a yearly basis.

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