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Chaki Wasi: Ecuador’s Thatched Handicrafts Hub

Chaki Wasi, Pujilí, EC / La Cabina de la Curiosidad

Situated on the edge of the volcanic crater of the Quilotoa Lagoon in Ecuador, lies the indigenous village of Shalalá, which is committed to the advancement of sustainable tourism. Within this community, the appreciation for the natural world is profound, and their profound connection with the environment is evident in all aspects of their existence, including their architectural pursuits. Serving as a testament to this ethos is the Chaki Wasi handicrafts center, a recent undertaking within the village. This center, skillfully designed by the talented architects at La Cabina De La Curiosidad, encapsulates the essence of the locale and pays homage to its vibrant cultural heritage.

Chaki Wasi, Pujilí, EC / La Cabina de la Curiosidad

Chaki Wasi, which translates to ‘house made of straw from floor to roof’ in the local Kichwa language, perfectly encapsulates the center’s core principle. By utilizing traditional building techniques rooted in Andean culture, the architects have created a structure that not only pays homage to the past but also meets the present needs of the Shalalá community. Crafted from timber and fiber, this architectural marvel seamlessly blends the old with the new, showcasing the harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.

Chaki Wasi, Pujilí, EC / La Cabina de la Curiosidad

The Chaki Wasi foundation at Shalalá is firmly established on river stones, symbolizing the land’s resilience, as highlighted by the architects at La Cabina De La Curiosidad. The skeleton of the structure is constructed from Eucalyptus wood, held together with cabuya, a natural fiber sourced from the penco plant.

Chaki Wasi, Pujilí, EC / La Cabina de la Curiosidad

Additional support is provided by large chaklla dowels made from young eucalyptus. Traditional tools were exclusively used in the construction process, with wooden mallets replacing nails and chakllas securing the joints through repeated sequences. The entire edifice is crowned by a vast thatched roof, enveloping the central structure in a protective and textural layer.

Chaki Wasi, Pujilí, EC / La Cabina de la Curiosidad

This dedication to sustainable building practices extends beyond the utilization of local materials. The project advocates for regenerative design, where waste is reintegrated into the land, fostering a closed-loop system that aligns with nature. Through the adoption of these principles, the Shalalá community ensures a favorable carbon footprint, leaving behind a lasting legacy for future generations.

Chaki Wasi, Pujilí, EC / La Cabina de la Curiosidad

Chaki Wasi’s construction is not only impressive in its own right, but also has a fascinating backstory. The building came into existence through a unique collaboration between La Cabina De La Curiosidad and the local community. This project thrived on a strong sense of community, with leadership roles being rotated on a weekly basis to foster a shared sense of ownership. Traditional communal work parties, known as mingas, brought together people of all genders and ages, further strengthening the social fabric of the region.

Chaki Wasi, Pujilí, EC / La Cabina de la Curiosidad

The construction of Chaki Wasi was a labor-intensive process, relying solely on manual labor and basic tools. The collective strength and unity of the community were crucial in raising the structural modules, with ropes playing a vital role in the construction. The thatching process, in particular, became a celebration of ancestral knowledge, with each stage being marked by rituals and customs that pay homage to the Andean way of life.

Image courtesy of JAG STUDIO