La Factoria – Ecuador

It is worth saying again how much I appreciate the architecture at La Factoria in Manglarato, Ecuador! An Airbnb review is an unlikely place for architectural writing, but the fact is that I came to La Factoria thru Airbnb and I found myself able to put together words of appreciation for George and Maria and their creation in writing my reviews:

1st visit

In traveling expectations for space can often be defined by culture and commodity. What is sought might be the postcard view or the marble bathroom. A kind of luxury, but only for consuming. For the traveler who seeks something other than these received versions of “luxury” then the Eco Lodge of La Factoria can be recommended. I am an architect and stayed in one of the cabins. I was looking for peace, reflection, and space for re-consideration of my work and at La Factoria I found opportunity for this. What I also found was huge delight and joy in the architecture of the space I stayed in. The space of the cabin is dynamic by its alignment with the angle of the roof and by being lifted off the floor plane with triangular glazing at the floor level. With two roof angles and intersecting geometries, there is complexity and interest, especially as sunlight interacts with elements of the geometries. There are no postcard views offered from within to without, but with the dynamics of the space there is never a feeling of being closed or contained. The cabin succeeds in the artful encouragement of expansiveness while initially presenting itself as an inward and private space. In addition to the wonderful dynamic of space in the cabin, at La Factoria there is growing of coffee, cacao, and fruit, an open work space, and an open kitchen/eating space where breakfast is made and shared, and other activities and buildings. Maria and George were gracious in their hosting and generous in their spirit. They are thoughtful in their work and contribute much towards ways of being and working that are not consuming. This is a place for people with self sufficiency, who will not be surprised by a few salamanders or spiders.

2nd visit

In my recent visit to La Factoria I was reading “The Eyes of the Skin” by Pallasmaa, a Finnish architect. In that book he observed that “Sight isolates, whereas sound incorporates; vision is unidirectional, but sound creates an experience of interiority.” He goes on to say “the eye reaches, but the ear receives.”

Do we a make the choice in how we move – reaching or receiving? Sometimes not, when we are busy and not conscious of there being choices of movement.  But in the mornings at La Factoria, with the proliferation of the sound of nature – ocean, birds, insects, roosters, and all else – I found myself drawn outwards, receiving, yes, but not as an interior experience with narrow and small sounds, only inside the ear and brain.  A reality of being inside and outside at the same time, with attention moving outwards and expanding.

After my first visit to La Factoria I remarked on how the cabin had a spatial dynamics that enabled a sense of expansion, without there being simple “views” made by the mechanism of conventional windows.  In this visit my attention went to the sound.  Perhaps it was the season – pleasantly hot and humid on March.  Was there was a noisier life present than last July, or were my ears were not as ready to receive before?  Perhaps it simply took Maria suggesting that I listen carefully, as I would hear the ocean if I did.

Coming home to the countryside of western Massachusetts the space here feels dead and without sound.  I know there is sound here. Maybe there are simply too many other distracting sounds?  I have adjusted now, but in the first few days back I yearned for the life and sounds at La Factoria.

My recommendation of La Factoria, and the generous hospitality of George and Maria,  is without hesitation and without qualification.  My affection for La Factoria grows, since my visits there have given me space for experience and reflection.

3rd visit

The story of Don Quixote is our paradigm for the all the searching we make in today’s world. What would have happened if he could have used Airbnb? As an architect my own searches on Airbnb have always been for the best, most interesting, and most accommodating space. La Factoria has been a place that has helped me to shift my sense of what “best” might be. On previous occasions when I have stayed at La Factoria I’ve learned, for example, that a view is not always needed for seeing, and that listening can be a movement. Of course experiencing space is never separate from the hidden consciousness of the systems of social artifacts that we make. What hands made that? What mother held the baby that grew to be that maker? What worlds were joined or changed by the mother and father doing their joining? What system made that particular mother and father possible in that place and in that time? The mood in this review is expansive because the conversations with George and Maria, the hosts at La Factoria, seemed to be more expansive on this trip. It was George, who continues to be the chief breakfast maker, who made the connection to Cervantes and the paradigm of Don Quixote as the individual in search of himself or herself that so dominants our societies and their cultures of individualism. George and Maria’s mission for La Factoria aims to find a way to connect artisan work and design in new ways, which I see as a search for something not quite so bound to the dominant culture of excess individualism that seems to be always searching. In the course of my visits I’ve loved the “cabin” where I have stayed for the ways that it has offered new kinds of openings, ways through, and connections in my experience and understanding of space. In this visit the conversations with George and Maria expanded and found new connections in a deeper horizon of time. Much more could be said. Suffice to say here that my appreciation and affection for George and Maria, and La Factoria, deepens with each visit. I of course very much recommend La Factoria to others.

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