Multi-Functional Eco Salon

Jan Balbaligo - Cosmic Social Outreach, Lago Atitlán, 2020



Photography by Josué Samol Navichoc and Sergio Iván Dávila Gravez     Download Original

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Natural architecture is at the forefront of radically sustainable development in Lake Atitlán as it allows rural communities to fulfil their needs whilst respecting the natural environment and preserving Mayan culture

The Multi-functional Eco-salon is an extension to largest primary and secondary school in San Pablo la Laguna. The vision was to deliver a strong and inspiring environment for the students, as well as a much-needed shaded indoor space where they can practice art, music, sports and other activities that compliment and enrich formal education. The entire budget was gathered from donations, international crowdfunding and fundraising events.

This 18-month social project was organised and facilitated by the non-profit organisation Cosmic Convergence and Cosmic Social Outreach which operates in Guatemala, UK and the USA. The school design was made by British Architectural Designer Jan Balbaligo, who specialises in sustainable architecture, and with the support of local builders, partners and stakeholders.

The wide span open space is 84sq/m and is constructed using Guadua (Brasileña) angustifolia, one of the most favoured species for bamboo construction. Double bamboo beams sit in the gaps of sturdy six-set bamboo columns. These columns were transformed from structures pre-built by international students who took a 15-day Bio-Construction course, also organised by Cosmic Social Outreach.

The structural skeleton of the building is made from recycled timber and bamboo splits. It is crossed braced internally, which makes it more resistant to seismic activity of the volcanic region. The gaps are infilled with a clay, sand and lime mixture, and two coats of lime is rendered over the surface giving additional protection to heat, humidity and insects. Over 400 bamboo splits were handwoven in-situ to create the bamboo roof which provides a barrier against heat from the corrugated iron, and to create a beautiful, natural surface texture to the ceiling.

Annual CO2 emissions data (requested in kg/m2/year) was not provided.


  • Begun: Apr 2019
  • Completed: Jan 2020
  • Floor area: 124m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £22,000
  • Funding: International fundraising scheme, public donations, event proceeds, registration for workshops
  • Tender date: 2018
  • Procurement: Management Contracting
  • Address: San Pablo la Laguna , Lago Atitlán, Guatemala