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Academic and Socio Cultural Center in Galapagos

Part 1 Project 2003
Abdul-Gemil Esenghiul
Catherine Griffiths
Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism Romania
Sometimes the presence of the human being can be minimum, its symbol being powerful enough to assure its survival and stability, in other situations it can be so widely expressed that often evolve to suffocate the essence of the existing nature. In a desirable situation such an intervention (the form of human existence in Galapagos), could only be reverent to its surroundings, even though it doesn’t seem to be sufficient to determine an obvious shaping of it.

The natural model of Galapagos seems to be the one that can provide the rules of constructing just any form of life that is supposed to survive here. The continuous transformation might be one of the main characteristics of this natural environment, which defines a perfectly reasonable metamorphosis of the form, color and functional response.
Therefore, the adaptability of any organism, human beings and their forms of life can be considered the vital condition for surviving in this place.
The structure to be built should to be a protective flexible enclosure/structure that by changing its form, position, and dimensions can respond to the demand of one or many more users and to the natural conditions. The form of it can only be a mimesis of the natural ones of any type of protective system, as a wing, a shell, a hand, an eyelid, a cocoon, a metaphor of a natural camouflage system.
On a larger scale the abundant vegetation will define the form in which the construction will be introduced into the site, as a serpent wriggling between the shrubs and the rocks, some of those being the volumes that include the necessary spaces of the programme, following the movement of the terrain, searching the best view angles, illumination and air movement conditions. It is an organic partly flexible form that relates to the more rigid, rectangular, closed volumes in every possible way, as any serpent does on its way.
Modulable pivoting panels and sliding structural frames changing not only its position but also its function – sun protection, sun radiation collector, wind protection and ventilation system are part of alterative energy saving, sustainable strategies.
In this way the project intends to be an opened, responsive, sensitively delimitated space that emerges as a balance of minimum needs and resources, a product of more interactive relation between the mans new needs and activities – survival, creation, recreation, enjoinment, work, study, rest...

Abdul-Gemil Esenghiul
Catherine Griffiths

During the process the ultimate goal was continuously pursued, which was in this case, to re-invent architecture in order to make it suitable to the Galapagos Islands. She developed her ideas at all scales, and managed to translate concepts of sustainability into material form. The result was a very appropriate answer to all requirements, very well fitting into the natural and social environment, very anchored in the repertoire of this context.

Since the very point of departure was to develop a construction system that could be easily dis-assembled, the first step was to build a model emphasizing joint details and flexibility. Essi developed a structure that could fold and unfold in order to meet diverse program requirements and adapt to varying wind and light conditions. Furthermore, her structure was light and easily assemblable and dis-assemblable, for it was made of wood components that could be reused and reshaped in the future. By inspiring herself in the flexible protection membranes of different animals, particularly of the caterpillar, she also introduced an element of biological mimetism into her design.

Progressing form detail to spatial organization, and after having visited the site (a plot of land on the edge between the Galapagos Islands National Park and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital city of San Cristobal Island), Essi decided to have the architecture tread upon it as a reptile would, winding up the slope in order to avoid the dense vegetation. All volumes were supported on "stilts" in order to minimize the points of contact on the ground. In addition, she developed her structure system further, so as to make the regular (less organic) elements, more flexible, through a telescoping mechanism that would allow the architecture to contract and expand, depending on the seasonal needs of the occupants.


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