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Grifen Hope
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Transition Town El Manzano Builds a new Community Centre

Posted by Grifen Hope about 13 years ago

El Manzano sets out to build a campus of the great reskilling, implementing a permaculture master plan, and a summer of bioconstruction. So ends a cycle of change, and another cycle begins.

Green Building & the Permaculture Master Plan in Chile 


Since 2009 we have been working on the plans to make El Manzano a world class centre for sustainable education that equips people with the values, knowledge and skills needed to make the transition from an unsustainable growth culture to resilient human communities. As we begin to attract more and more visitors students and interns our facilities are often found to be lacking, and not of a quality befitting a green campus.  

In Transition 

We have found that by working in a learning community to solve real world problems we build many of the skills needed by todays sustainability professional. By dreaming big and acting with intention we can develop the skills we need in practice, building local projects that stimulate sistemic change in the world. You too can be a part of this. Join the international community of Gaia University, here in El Manzano BioBio Chile. 

With a year of experimental construction under our belts, and an investor willing to take a small but significant risk on us, we finally feel ready to make the leap and give form to our dreams. We have moved from dreaming, to planning and preparing, and now we move into action.  

Join us for our summer program 2011;

A Green Campus comes to Life

The Green Campus design has been an on-going project with Architect Angel Carrillo working with the El Manzano team and community to design an urban development strategy for the village that brings together a traditional Architects view of the world within a whole system context. Together we have formed a draft structure plan for the centre of the El Manzano community that sets a platform for the introduction of more residents here and a viable economic future for all of us.

CampusAngel has been working on the project since late 2009, through many participatory meetings with the community and building of confidence and open dialogue. The campus design includes healthy homes for all village residents, a public plaza at the centre of a community education facility with classrooms, workshops, accommodation, office and small local shops.  This is in essence a community development project, providing an economic platform for the whole community to meet its needs, and building a place that provides transformative action learning pathways.

The Kitchen

The construction of phase one begins this summer with the kitchen and dining rooms going up. Designed by Catia Konrad from Chiles newest Ecovillage in Millenrama, the building reflects the architectural history of colonial Chile, in a modern natural building. The centre includes a kitchen and dining come restaurant / café, with multifunctional teaching space, a library and meeting space, accommodation for 12 students and interns, and a small office to meet the growing needs of the campus.

KitchenCatia has designed a 200 square metre building with a 10 metre diameter octagon teaching space and a two storey attachment for the kitchen and accommodation. A long corridor will guide visitors from the El Manzano entrance, past the office, to the shop and service area, then to the kitchen, dining room and a large outdoor deck area. The building will be a community centre providing space for a food cooperative, community cooking, meetings and events, communications and information, emergency centre etc. We intend that the building becomes a loved and well used community space that brings us together in conversation and action.  

Natural Construction

The building will be made with local materials as far as possible, making best use of resources we have at hand, with Cupresus macrocarpa framing and Robinia pseudoaccacia external posts. The main structure will be composed of eucalyptus round pole and rough sawn Pinus beams. The rafters will also be roundpole, crafted by hand. The north walls will be quincha, or wattle and daub, to provide thermal mass for passive solar heating. The southern walls will be 25 centimetre thick light clay straw, a technique we have perfected here for our conditions, to provide ample insulation in winter. An earth roof to the north will bring some life to the building, and help it blend into the landscape and forest.  


This week we start the process of clearing the site, felling trees and removing roots to provide a stable platform. An area will be cleared as consciously as possible to create outdoor space around the building for the development of new intensive gardens and orchards and outdoor teaching spaces. The milling process has started, trees are being dropped today and sent to the mill this week, to be dry by the time we need them in February.

Our recent testing of materials and techniques has yielded results, and we now have complete confidence in the materials and construction methods we are using.

The presence of Luis Sierra and his construction team is providing us with many opportunities to critically reflect on the work from the experience of a constructor with extensive experience in Chilean conditions. We hope also that our experimental approach is rubbing off on him and allowing him to see building and natural materials in a new light.

If you wish to be a part of this process, and especially if you have practical experience as a builder, there are opportunities for internships and volunteering. Contact us today and find your place on the team.

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Kate Wilson
Kate Wilson : By having large goals and taking deliberate action, we may construct local projects that promote global change by gaining the practical skills we need. Regards from nevada building maintenance team.
Posted 9 months ago

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Advanced Permaculture Design Course
Type: Teacher Training
Teacher: David Holmgren & Su Dennett
Location: Rainbow Valley Farm, Matakana, New Zealand
Date: Apr 2007
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Teacher: Javiera Carrion
Location: El Manzano, Chile
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Permaculture Design Course
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Designing Regenerative Enterprise
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Verifying teacher: Andrew Langford
Other Teachers: Liora
Location: El Manzano, Chile
Date: Mar 2011
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Other Teachers: Liora Adler
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Other Teachers: Andrew Langford
Location: Santiago, Chile
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Location: Litueche, Chile
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