Azuero Earth Project Headquarters

2008- 2010

Status: Completed


Architect: IM/KM
Landscape Design: Edwina Von Gal & Co., Edwina Von Gal

Casa Pasa is home to the Azuero Earth Project, a non-profit based in Panama whose mission is to preserve the earth’s ecosystems, protect biodiversity, and promote healthy communities by helping people to make informed decisions, take sustainable actions, and share knowledge. The founder of the project wanted to lead by example in the small town by using recycled materials and visualizing the responsible choices available within the traditional means of construction familiar to the town locals. She bought a prominently located home in the small fishing town of Pedasi in the Azuero Peninsula, and challenged us with a series of experiments to see what could be done that was sustainable and accessible as we set out to design a space that would serve the project operations as an education and research center as well as home for visiting experts.

The space is a result of many design experiments we undertook at the foundation's request, including partially demolishing the home, and surgical planning to retrofit salvaged materials into the existing facade. From the street, the home reflects the vernacular architectural design that is characteristic of the town, but the back of the home has been pulled away to reveal the structural heavy timber framing and create a large private outdoor room that serves as a dining and meeting area, as well as an education center. The outdoor living space is flanked by a closed climate controlled research library and three open-air, passively cooled bedrooms with en suite baths for visiting experts. The space accentuates an appreciation for Azuero style construction while approaching it in an innovative way.

The house was partially demo’d on the client’s hopes that she would find quincha, a mud-based plaster used in traditional Panama that would reduce the high carbon footprint of cement, which is universally used in present-day Panamanian construction. The home was cement, but we kept the façade to show the value of reuse and recycle. The foundation salvaged the windows and doors from destroyed residences in former U.S. occupied canal zone. The doors were originally sent from California and made of California redwood. 60% of all the wood used in the house is salvaged. The roof is tiled in salvaged clay tile and supported by a huge wooden beam, which we highlight by exposing it in the outdoor gathering center.

The experimental process was a design challenge and the resulting space tells a story about creating a beautiful sustainable design using what you can find locally. The space serves as a case study for students who gather around the large table in the outdoor conference center. The approachable local aesthetic is inviting for school children and locals who frequent the center with questions about recycling, planting and reforesting the area, as well as functional for visiting scientists and experts who are making substantial gains in a sustainability of the region’s threatened ecosystems.

Status: Completed 2011