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CACMU Building


Ibarra, Ecuador

December 2019


Jorge Andrade Benítez, Gabriela Naranjo Serrano, Emilio Thodes Miranda, María José Valdospinos


Franz Fischer, Sofía Ortiz, Ana Martínez, Janeth Palacios, Natalia Cadena, Luis Tobar Subía, Guillermo Gómez, Carlos Ortiz, Wladimir Mena, Jaime Velásquez, Marco de la Torre, Fernando Cajas, Wladimir Morales, EMCOPRODE


CACMU Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Mujeres Unidas


Bicubik Photography - Andres Fernández y Sebastián Crespo


The project sought to rehabilitate the existing building, recognizing its value as a part of the heritage complex of the historic center of the city, by highlighting its original typology. Additionally, the unbuilt area in the interior of the site was used to locate newly built spaces, as was required by the program.

The dialogue between the existing and the new areas was based on each one representing its own spatial possibilities, construction techniques and materials, while maintaining functional coherence and fluidity. As was precisely stated by the Quito Biennale: “There are three clear levels of intervention (...): in the exterior it is not perceptible, in the interior the existing is respected and redeemed, and, lastly, the new is built. These levels of intervention allow the project to take distance from its heritage condition and, at the same time, make it stand out.”

For the exterior character of the building, the project contemplated to showcase the traditional stone and brick masonry construction techniques and keep the original shape and character of the roof. In the interior, the traditional patio was reinterpreted by maintaining a single floor level and providing shade, looking for spatial integration with the perimeter areas.

The junction between the old and the new buildings seeked to articulate a dialogue of materials and spaces around a brick arcade, while finding opportunities for natural lighting, ventilation and interior vegetation. Similar strategies are applied in the newly built area where small patios also allow to transform the space around them.


CACMU Building is located in the historic center of Ibarra, a medium-sized city in the Northern Ecuadorian Andes. The immediate views are mostly dominated by the domes and towers of the local churches, while the distant landscape is characterized by the hills and mountains of this region. The climate is temperate with moderate rains in the months of December to April.

The site is within a heritage listed area with buildings from the republican period, mostly built with earthen supporting walls, wooden roof structure and spanish tiles as roofing, that revolve around a central interior courtyard; reminiscent of its Colonial past. However protected due to its heritage condition, pressure to develop and high land costs have caused the dismantling or demolition of many of the original buildings, puting the character and the built heritage of this part of the city at risk. Many of the surrounding constructions have been transformed to house office or commercial uses, with some residential use still remaining in the higher stories or inner patios.

Bustling with street vendors and passerbys, daily life goes by among students walking to their schools, buses honking their horns at traffic, office workers rushing to make it home for lunch and the smell of fumes from roasted cow tripe being sold on a street corner.


When the project was inaugurated, the expectation of the client, to unite two distinctive uses, became a reality. CACMU seeked to use this building as a branch of its financial institution and, at the same time, as a base for their social assistance foundation. These activities have seamlessly coexisted aided by how the design of the building brought, at the same time, integration and independence to the diverse functions outlined by the program. The coworking area and the meeting rooms are constantly used for training and showcasing activities aimed to boost the local economy through the support of small and medium entrepreneurships.

The intention to create a building that was environmentally friendly was also met through different strategies. The reuse of an existing structure meant that materials that would have been discarded, found a second life. Additionally, during most of the day, artificial lighting is unnecessary due to the openings on walls and roofs that allow employees and visitors to enjoy naturally lit spaces. Similar principles have allowed the avoidance of any mechanical air conditioning mechanisms. The inclusion of internal gardens and vegetation has helped on natural climate control and to improve the general wellbeing of users.

The city has been able to find, in this building, an alternative to reuse existing constructions, while providing adequate spaces for the current needs and uses required by a changing society. Bringing new life to these old buildings assures that they continue to be useful and, therefore, the heritage they represent is protected.

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