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Learning Viewpoint

Al Borde

Guayaquil, Guayas, Ecuador

January 2022


David Barragán (Partner in Charge), Francisco Andrade Marin N6-60 y Eloy Alfaro (Edificio Luxxo)


Marialuisa Borja (Partner in Charge), Esteban Benavides (Partner in Charge), Patricio Cevallos (Structural Engineering), Maria Veronica Paszkiewicz (Construction Assitant)


Fundación Pro Bosque - Elcira Cedeño


Juan Alberto Andrade


The first intervention of the Master Plan of the Protected Forest of Cerro Blanco confronts its users with the magnitude of the forest. It is designed so that the experience of being the first person on the front line can be collective. The central circulation ends in a front where a guide or teacher can direct a group distributed in both wings. In this way, the viewpoint can easily be transformed into a classroom. It's ideal for school groups, which represent the largest group of visitors to the park.

The viewpoint is the first project in the plan. It serves as a prototype to understand the scope of the technology. Common pieces of wood are used and assembled in a simple way to create something that is neither common nor simple. The architecture does not require any final finishes, its most primitive form is enough to envelop the user. The viewpoint is not even painted, its darkness is due to a method of preservation of the wood in which the surface layer is burned, mineralizing it and protecting it from pests that could attack it.

The wooden structure, which allows contemplation of the landscape, is protected by a fabric impregnated with cement mortar supported by a tensioned structure. Holcim Guayaquil's Innovation Center, along with the architectural team, researched and developed a hybrid adaptive geometric roof using high-strength mortar spray-on a fabric.


The Cerro Blanco Protected Forest is located in Guayaquil, Ecuador. It has 6078 hectares and is one of the last remnants of dry forest on the Ecuadorian coast. The reserve was inaugurated in 1989 when the city had 1.5 million inhabitants, a population that has now almost doubled, putting great pressure on the forest's boundaries and threatening its conservation. It has 221 endemic bird species, 21 of which are globally threatened; 54 mammal species, 9 endemic and 6 threatened. Amphibians and reptiles are also up to 60% endemic.

The reserve is located on the city's urban expansion axis. To the south, it is bordered by a large supply of upper-middle-class housing, generating pressure on land use and land value. To the north, it is bordered by informal expansion, large extensions of land have been urbanized as a result of land trafficking.

The proposal is to transform areas already exposed to formal and informal urban growth into catalysts for environmental conservation, economic development and social transformation, thus protecting intangible areas of great biodiversity and ecological value. Threats are turned into tools for forest conservation.

The project is an invitation to explore and learn from the forest. It uses non-invasive architectural elements. The proposal uses local materials produced within a radius of the forest, including concrete and excluding only steel. Instead of adapting the site to the architecture, the project does the opposite: it uses the natural conditions to create site-specific experiences that contribute to environmental education in the city.


We were commissioned to design a lookout point on one of the forest trails. We saw an opportunity to turn it into an open classroom for environmental education, after all, the biggest users of the forest are school groups. After a 30-minute walk, one reaches not only a place with a great view, but also a space that guides and teachers can use for academic activities. For those who come to visit the Forest, the project has become a place to visit. Its visibility has become so great that Magic Picnic (an event company) has created a romantic dating service. Couples book the space for dinners and marriage proposals.

The fact that there is interest in visiting the project helps raise awareness of the need to preserve this ecosystem. This is more important than ever, as the city government has announced plans to build a highway to the new airport that will cut through the forest. Architecture becomes a tool for environmental activism.

The main sponsor of this project is Holcim through its Environmental Responsibility Department. That's why it was so important to involve them in the development of a technology and intervention model. By building this project, Holcim's research team was able to determine that it reduces the carbon footprint embedded in the roof by 68% per square meter compared to a concrete tiled roof.

The project brings to the table the dilemma of the relationship between humans and nature. It shows how a conservation model can be based on coexistence with the forest.

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