In Ecuador, several centuries ago, the Babahoyo River and its floating houses became one of the main collection, storage and rest points on the commercial route of merchants and farmers between the cities of Guayaquil and Quito, using a construction system of greater resilience and adaptability over the years. At present, the river has ceased to be a commercial fluvial route, reducing the number of floating structures from 200 to 25 and increasing its risk of extinction, despite being recognized as an Intangible Heritage of Ecuador.
During the last years, the governments in power have developed housing solutions for relocation and displacement, declaring the riverbanks as a risk zone, without taking into account the consequences on the socio-cultural dynamics based on fishing, boat manufacturing and fluvial transport. The inhabitants of the 25 remaining houses feel the need to preserve their link with their territory, despite the unsatisfied basic needs and the lack of public policies that protect the floating habitat.
The objective is to propose a floating housing development model aimed at Don Carlos, Doña Teresa and their youngest son. A family that has lived in the river for more than 30 years and uses the immediate ecosystem as its main resource. Carlos is dedicated to repairing wooden boats, while Teresa prepares traditional food, which is sold to local communities. The home in which they lived was in a critical state in its structure and provision of basic services, preventing them from carrying out their livelihood activities in a dignified and sustainable manner.
A quantification of their current living spaces and an inventory that records the furniture and its existing uses were carried out. Through interviews with Carlos and Teresa; the problems, needs and possible solutions were deepened, with the aim of reusing them.
La Balsanera proposes the extension of 2 m on each side of the current platform (6mx7m) to potentiate the productive environments of the inhabitants. The structure is made up of modular porticos every 2m built with local wood, which form a gabled truss, generating storage spaces and sufficient height to enhance ventilation and natural lighting through its limits of wooden latticework. In the center, the existing location of private and social spaces such as the living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedrooms is preserved; while two stripes are added to the ends; one for service and two for production, where the boat workshop, dry toilet, laundry, and shower are located. The platform ends towards the river with a productive terrace where the possibility of extending the traditional food service, social gathering, and anchoring of tourist boats is generated.
The SAT (Sharjah Architectural Triennial) calls on architectural teams to develop an exhibition that highlights the importance of scarcity, the reuse of resources and the valorization of ancestral techniques based on nature in the Global South, among which is the Natura Futura studio, which in collaboration with Juan Carlos Bamba decided to use the resources from the exhibition - which are commonly used in ephemeral constructions and later discarded - to design and build the first sustainable floating house in Babahoyo, Ecuador with the aim of recover the tradition of living on the river.
La Balsanera explores possible floating solutions that recover local artisan techniques while promoting the active and productive participation of the occupants in vulnerable communities, where it is urgent to strengthen their resilience and sustainability to initiate the generation of public policies that allow, for the first time, the traditional habitat in the river.