By Phoebe Schenker, AIA, LEED® AP
I vividly remember my first (and only) walk through a Mangrove forest on the north coast of Australia. There was a boardwalk path through an otherworldly swamp filled with a tangle of roots and tubes supporting the canopies above. Birds called, the ocean hummed in the distance, and I was on the lookout for crocodiles and snakes. It was a magical experience. When I heard we had been contacted through Public Architecture’s 1% Program by a non-profit working to protect the Mangroves in El Salvador, I leapt at the chance to help.
EHDD signed on to the 1% Program shortly after its founding in 2005 – committing to spend 1% of the firms time on Pro Bono projects. We have met that commitment and mostly exceeded it, but always by finding our own non-profit partners in need. When EcoViva contacted us, it was the first time we’d been approached through the through the 1% website, which acts as a matchmaking portal between designers and non-profits.
It’s easy to see why they sought us out. Their mission – creating community-led initiatives for a sustainable future – aligns perfectly with our own – that great design recognizes our responsibility to the future. Therefore, it was no surprise that we liked them from the start. EcoViva works with the Mangrove Association to build grassroots support for sustaining the fragile mangrove ecosystem in the Bahia de Jiquilisco, El Salvador.
They had been given a piece of land near the bay and are planning to develop a Mangrove Resource Center – a place for the community to gather, for education and a base for community organizing, as well as a lab for research with an eventual residence for scientists to be able to come and stay while they study the mangroves. Our task – to create a masterplan for the site and a concept for the buildings – designed to be dignified, inexpensive, and sustainable. With feedback from the client, we developed a plan and some visuals, which will be used to convey the concept and raise funds for the construction.
We hope this is just the beginning of the collaboration, and that we will be able to help EcoViva realize the Mangrove Resource Center and maybe go visit ourselves. I for one am looking forward to another magical trip through the mangroves.