The Wisdom of Nature and Andean Culture

Social architecture as a strategy for change towards integration and social equity

One of the consequences of our world becoming increasingly urbanized is the massive migration from the countryside to cities, where the vulnerability of older adults is even more troubling, not because of their inevitable decline but because of the various characteristics that arise in their social interaction in a given context.

When studying the living conditions of a rural community, inequalities become evident when it is recognized that their needs and lifestyles differ from those of the big cities. This means that the aging rural population, reluctant to move, remains in their communities due to the circumstances and social conditions they have lived through, their culture, worldview, and background. Communities where the risk of vulnerability and the possibilities of abandonment are higher, not only of the place but also of the elderly population that persists in preserving its history and cultural identity.

Social Architecture in assisted living facility for older adults

Spaces for contemplation generate experiences through the stimulation of the senses to obtain spontaneous emotional value and to make this experience memorable. Image © Pamela Sanz

It’s possible to perceive equity in architecture when it’s designed for everyone, or when equal opportunities are promoted that take into account a better occupation of the territory and reverse the depopulation process. This can provide the community with the means to generate its own development and become a scenario where a better life can be found that includes people of all ages.

This transformation is possible by rescuing the values that make architecture a potential strategy for change and social integration, implementing the principle of equity in the spaces we inhabit, and preserving the rural environment through regeneration, sustainability, renewability, and ecological preservation. In the rural setting these values are embedded in the continuity of its traditions, as well as the integration of its living landscape in addition to the conservation of the intangible and emotional elements that build a community's cultural identity.

Social Architecture for assisted living facility for older adults project in Perú

Native agriculture, as a response to the morphological conditions of the territory (terraces) and water (sustainable irrigation system), blurs its boundaries to become part of the landscape. Image © Pamela Sanz

This proposal is a case study of how architecture can address this issue in a sustainable, ethical, and creative way, where the rural world offers a unique opportunity, due to its features, to create environments in which, through nature, well-being and a positive image of aging can be promoted.

The sustainability of rural life through social architecture is possible by recognizing its geographical, historical, cultural, landscape, and ecological components, especially the techniques and materials that allowed these social groups to create a unique way of living. This could provide design solutions that are more coherent and compatible with environments where the natural component is still a significant part of the territory.

Social Architecture for health tourism project in Perú

Hydrotherapy and health tourism through the use of the thermal waters that emanate from the volcanic depths of the area. Image © Pamela Sanz

The intention of the architectural proposal of the assisted living facility for older adults in the Colca Valley in Arequipa, Peru, immersed in a natural environment, respects the language and image of the territory. It replicates and reinterprets the materiality and characteristics of the typical spaces developed through its history, customs and building tradition. Furthermore, it offers spaces for promoting activities that integrate the community through its customs and practices, as well as health tourism, all of which would also allow continuous economic feedback.

Consequently, social architecture has a rational but simultaneously emotional character because of its culture and is perceived through the senses using its landscape. Often, intentions tend to focus on other more technical, visual, or economic aspects and do not consider the essential resources to create unique projects that move and communicate. Today, the education of the senses is a crucial tool when designing. Architecture in a natural environment, connected to emotions, can change the scenery of life and the meaning of things.

Main image: Spaces designed to provide social care with socio-affective therapeutic purposes through interaction with animals and community participation. Image © Pamela Sanz