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Escuela Inicial 140 en la comunidad de Santa Cruz de Villacuri, "Barrio Chino"

Estudio Copla, Atelier Ander Bados

Santa Cruz de Villacuri, Salas, Ica, Peru

October 2022


Betsaida Curto Reyes (Architect), Ander Bados Sesma (Architect)


Huber Grabiel Canchis Agreda (Architectural technician), Valeria Vidal Cruz (Site Supervisor trainee), Victoria Arrighi (International Recovery Manager), Cecilia Marcheselli (Site Supervisor trainee), Dennis Mialki (Senior Technical Advisor


All Hands And Hearts NGO


Eleazar Cuadros


We hoped to increase the value and enhance the ruggedness of the environment by blending textures and materials. The school could function within the context of its surroundings: earth, rocks, olive trees, wild cane, yucas, land. For this we felt was the soul of Villacuri.

Our core beliefs were not only creating a space where the school traditions could flourish. But also, we hoped to embellish the sense of pride to an already strong community.
Our plot, situated in the heart of the town and overshadowed by its neighbors, inspired us to design a space where classrooms would connect with open natural areas.

Respecting the use of local materials, we devised a grid system filled with ‘full’ and ‘empty spaces.’

We implemented seven classrooms and service buildings (including a kitchen, staffrooms, and bathrooms). Punctuated throughout, dotted amongst the wild cane and olive trees, the children have access to shaded paths, classrooms protected from the scorching desert temperatures and an amphitheater which serves as a playground as well as a hub for the community.

Further efforts were also employed to reduce classroom temperatures – We reinterpreted an old Ica method, using a two-roof system that forms an air chamber, thus allowing natural air ventilation to flow throughout whilst restoring an environmental comfort.

The ‘borrowed’ construction techniques used, along with the repurposing of local materials allowed us to reimagine what most deem ugly to become beautiful. And whilst the trees and shade protect the classrooms, the children can simply focus on learning.


Villacurí is a human settlement, the result of an influx that began 25 years ago and was formed by immigrants from the mountains and jungle. It is a temporary housing area without urban planning, where local employment is structured around the fruit picking plantations.
It is located in the Peruvian desert, halfway between Ica and Paracas and running alongside the Pan-American South Highway.
One of the difficulties faced by this population, inhabited by the most vulnerable, is the sparse attention acknowledged by the governments. The initial school was never rebuilt after the 2007 earthquake, which is why its 300 students spent years in prefabricated classes, where ventilation and health conditions made learning extremely difficult.
In 2019, the NGO All Hands and Hearts decided to reconstruct the school.

There are multiple building techniques in the area including mats, reefs, concrete, brick, wood etc. And the surrounding buildings are a synthesis of multiple cultures.
This has led to the urban fabric becoming anarchic, created with different techniques depending on the origins of those who built it.

Our constructive response was therefore born from this distinctive community that equally understands its surroundings as valuable.

The common denominator among all the other buildings is the use of materials without coating. This is primarily for economy. We therefore decided to adopt this as a concept, simply leaving the materials as they are.

This construction technique allowed for significant economical saving, without devaluing the school.

The use of local material supports the community to closer identify with the school whilst dignifying local construction methods.


Villacuri is a settlement in which many of its residents live only during agricultural seasons. Often if the facilities or quality of education in the area are not good, families do not enroll their children in primary schools.

The construction of this new school, with good spaces for teaching, pleasant temperatures, and outdoor areas with local plants, has created a very positive impact on children's schooling. Enrolment has increased by more than 20% compared to previous years.

The building has also been recognized as an example of possible models of educational architecture from multiple visits made by representatives of the regional government, due to the use of local materials, its architecture, and the sustainable reduction of high temperatures inside the classrooms.

The school similarly has generated a positive impact on the community, creating a greater sense of belonging and pride, which is why today they have a high commitment to its maintenance and care.

The faculty management is considering creating new shaded areas in the playground using the same construction techniques as in the school, with cane and wood, to have more capacity for different local and community festivities.

These materials, before the construction of the school, were reviled for being considered 'poor materials’, as they were a memory of the first stages of settlement in the area.

They are once again celebrated and used, which also supports the area's circular economy.

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