Álvaro Siza has designed a pavilion using natural materials intended to encourage the production and use of clay.
Part of the mission of Oaxaca-based foundation Casa Wabi is to help local children develop confidence, knowledge, and new skills. The foundation believes that teaching them the clay working techniques that have been practiced in this part of Mexico for generations is integral to this, while also being a useful way to build community. Casa Wabi therefore decided to construct a center for teaching ceramic techniques and entrusted its design to Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza.
The project involved the construction of a main palapa – a traditional Mexican shelter roofed with palm leaves – both as a teaching space and for exhibiting the pieces made at the workshops . The center also has storage facilities, a kiln, and adjoining bathrooms. A semicircular brick wall surrounds the space, while also enclosing a paved area by the kiln.
The main palapa is 23 feet (7 m) high and comprises a 20.0x6.5 foot (6x2 m) concrete table where students sit when working with the clay. The curved brick wall is 26 feet (8 m) in diameter and, together with another L-shaped wall, creates two rooms for storing pottery and tools.
The wall was made using red annealed bricks, specially sized to fulfill their structural function. The shape of the main palapa brings to mind the wooden structures of medieval Europe.
Architect: Alvaro Siza
Location: Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Area: 140 m2
Photography by © João Morgado