Centro Cultural Opción Más
In 2016 Chamanga, Manta, and many other fishing villages in the Esmeralda province of Ecuador suffered a severe earthquake and tsunami. The destruction has challenged Ecuador at a time of political (presidential election), and economic uncertainty. A remote area in the Northwest coast of Ecuador, Esmeraldas is famous for the co-existence of native and Afro-American communities living in co-existence with one of the earths most diverse ecologies, and one that remains relatively untouched. In recent years the encrouchment and destruction of the mangrove habitat and much of the coastal ecology by commercial shrimp farming has affected both the traditional small boat fishing that characterized the local economy as well as created the conditions of coastal deterioration that magnified the impact of the earthquake and tsunami.
The PSU program embeds PSU graduate students and advanced undergrads in architecture and planning in the heart of the impacted communities to work side by side with the community to plan, design and begin the physical reconstruction of the coastal area. Specifically, the village of Chamanga, one of the most impacted by the earthquake, will be a case study for reconstruction opportunities and the possibility to use the reconstruction to restore mangrove habitat and engage native ecological practices long in use to reconnect the native fisherman and women as stewards of this effort. This program will coordinate and share faculty and teaching with University of Tokyo faculty and graduate students, as well as graduate students from Europe's Erasmus Mundus Program.
In the summer of 2017, the CPID traveled with students to Chamanga for 3 weeks to work with project partners on the design and construction of a cultural center for an incredible nonprofit organization called Opción Más
Opción Más started as a music initiative in 2009. Over time, it evolved into a wider cultural program that now includes a music and theatre school, a community radio station and recording studio. They focus on giving children and teenagers outlets for creative expression, while strengthening Chamanga’s cultural identity. The group has 12 permanent volunteers and is led by Alberto López, who is currently the Tourism and Environment chair in the local government. The cultural center operated in Alberto’s house for 3 years, after which they started renting a house in downtown Chamanga. After a successful period of growth and consolidation, the cultural center had a base of 60 boys and
girls, in addition to 12 volunteers. However, the 2016 earthquake left them without a place to carry out their program, which has severely weakened their activities. Even though there is no official data related to drug use among teenagers, it is an issue that has repeatedly come
up since our first visit to Chamanga. The Cultural Center’s name, One More Option, stems from their interest in using cultural expressions and art as a way to provide opportunities and support to at-risk youth.
The cultural center aims to provide a safe place for at-risk youth to develop their skills and talents while strengthening Chamanga’s cultural identity by elaborating on the region’s rich tradition, as well as on contemporary expressions of performing arts. By building a new facility to house their programs,Opción Más will be able to serve the youth of Chamanga, currently disenfranchised and lacking leisure, support and cultural opportunities. Opción Más aims to expand the impact of their new facilities beyond their cultural programs by offering it as a civic resource where other organizations can carry out their activities and services.
University of Tokyo; Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC) School of Architecture; ATR; Pontificia Universidad Católica de Ecuador (PUCE), Opción Más