Reimagining Architecture and Design

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    What We Can Learn from Guatemalan Homes

    Jessica Gomez
    Apr 12, '21 3:53 AM EST

    Many homes in Guatemala connect with nature in an unintentional yet successful way. A couple of years ago I visited family in Guatemala and stayed at my great grandparents house. The first thing I noticed was the way the house was set up. It’s not the typical house you see here in America. You don’t walk in an entrance door and circulate around an enclosed space. Instead, right away you see different rooms for the same household lined up outside.

    Family Home in Guatemala

    Because of poverty, families can only afford to build individual rooms, one by one versus a house. This forces people to be more exposed to the outdoors as they must step outside whenever they want to go to another room. During my trip, I vividly remember having to walk outside at night in order to go the bathroom. But it was nice, being able to look at the night sky while doing something as simple as this. You are only in an enclosed space when you need to sleep or go to the bathroom but usually when you cook, eat, do laundry, and hang out, it all happens outdoors. Although many of these homes are underdeveloped, being connected and exposed to nature is one of the most richest and valuable thing about them.

    Being back home in America, my family always mentions how they miss being exposed to the outdoors like in Guatemala and how sometimes they feel suffocated living inside an enclosed space for so long. Being able to connect to nature, in general, is important for our mental health. A 2015 study, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that “neural activity in the..brain region active during repetitive thoughts focused on negative emotions, decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in a urban environment”. As designers we should begin and acknowledge how our design decisions can help people in the long run. We can take a look at Guatemalan homes as an example. I’m not saying we should copy the way their homes are set up, rather begin to think how we can consider other designs and how they establish a connection between nature and people.

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