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Reconstrucción de viviendas tradicionales en Chiautla de Tapia, Mixteca Poblana, México.

GRAVA Taller de Arquitectura

La Ciénega y Centeocala, Chiautla de Tapia, Puebla, Mexico

March 2023


Karen Elí Vigueras Acatitla (Creative Director), Saulo Roberto Román Barrera (Creative Director)



Leoncio López Onofre, Agueda Carrasco Bravo, Gabriela Najera Franco, Caciano Vazquez Ponce, Juan Cañongo Fuentes


Cristopher Rogel Blanquet


The massive introduction of industrialized materials to the Mexican market at the end of the 19th century, the historical processes of urbanization and the migratory processes from rural areas to the United States, have caused an effect of rejection and stigmatization of traditional construction systems, associating them with “backwardness” and poverty, a situation that has led to the loss of an important part of the traditional heritage in different regions of the country.

The main objective of the project sought to destigmatize that notion of traditional systems as inefficient, related to an unfavorable economic condition and not viable for their application in the present times, through two main axes: positively influencing the conservation of the communities ancestral knowledge; and providing alternatives with low environmental and economic impact, as well as structural and habitability technical improvements that contemplate the contemporary way of life in them.

Typologically, housing in the region is configured based on the activities and the time that the family spends in them. The rooms and the kitchen are connected through the patio, where social activities take place; these are the center of life in the house most of the day.

With an anthropological vision, the project understands architectural practice as one of service to the population: architecture developed with and for the people, in any ambit and place. The work developed is the sum of contemporary technical and ancestral knowledge, through the use of natural resources, where the self-production processes were decisive for the materialization of the works.


The housing project responds to the conditions, needs and contemporary way of life in the rural villages of Santiago Centeocala and San Miguel La Ciénega, located in the Sierra Mixteca Poblana, southeast of the state of Puebla.

Of Nahua origin, the oldest vestiges in the region are Mesoamerican Postclassic cave paintings (950-1521 AD). Their history is painted on the Códice de Coetzala (16th century) and the Relación Verdadera de Fray Bartolomé de la Vera Cruz (1571) where they are described as small and remote villeges, belonging to the Triple Alianza de Quiauhteopan, zona de la minería indígena, an indigenous mining area.

Its geographical location, the close relationship with the natural territory and its Nahua origin, are observable into the configuration of a traditional houses that uses materials from the natural environment: clay, stone, local wood and palm; allowing it to adapt to the dry semi-dry climate of the region, where the maximum temperature reaches 100º F.

The 155 inhabitants of Centeocala and the 280 of La Ciénega are dedicated to raising animals as cows, sheep, donkeys, goats and horses, and rainfed crops. The dialogue with them was the key to approaching and understanding traditional housing in the region. From it, the approach to ancestral knowledge, intangible cultural heritage of the region, was made possible, as well as the opportunity to understands the materials, processes and times of the traditional construction system, through a vision crossed by the regional and local traditions, customs, new ways of rural life and natural times.


In the villages of the Sierra Mixteca the days are spent working in the fields, and the afternoons are spent socializing and resting in the patios near of the kitchens. Currently, the families of Centeocala and La Ciénega receive comments that praise their homes, the same ones that were stigmatized a few years ago; They are invited to build other homes with the same traditional construction systems and, mainly, they have built a strong emotional bond with their houses, crossed by the process of materializing their own home.

Observation, social and natural environment analysis, as well as share time with the families, were fundamental for the understanding of the architectural problem, as well as for the design approach and, specially, for the success of the housing project, and to reaffirm the feasibility of traditional systems in the contemporary rural context of the region, reinforcing and enabling the transmission of traditional construction knowledge; cultural heritage of the populations of the region; to new generations, involving them and allowing them to observe how local materials adapt efficiently to their environment.

The project allowed us to identify our role in the community, as an opportunity to rethink our own architectural practice, taking a respectful stance with the knowledge, culture, traditions and natural environment of the region, and working together with families. The development of the project was made possible by CONAVI, through the National Reconstruction Program, who subsidized the families of the localities.

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