In the low-income, banana-farming community of Shiroles, 140 miles southeast of San José, infrastructure and basic amenities are sparse: Before San José–based architects Elisa Marin and Manfred Barboza helped establish the Shiroles Rural School in 2009, the closest school was 12 miles away. Government assistance, too, was minimal. Instead, “we had a lot of support from the community,” says 27-year-old Marin. This support came in both matter and might: parents and other members of the community donated manual labor and building material—timber from the surrounding forest and corrugated metal from a small store about an hour away. The most recent set of buildings was inaugurated in April 2011, heralding the completion of the second segment of a multiphase master plan developed by Marin and Barboza. “We tried to use materials that residents would be able to find in the future,” Marin explains, while bringing skills, not just schoolhouses, to the community. Going forward, Marin and Barboza will continue to raise funds to realize plans for a library, gymnasium, soccer fields, and, of course, several additional classroom buildings.
ARCHITECT: Elisa Marin and Manfred Barboza.
BUDGET: $8,000 per classroom, including furnishings.
CONTEXT: The town of Shiroles lies in the Costa Rican county of Talamanca. Much of Shiroles consists of reservations for the country’s indigenous peoples. The school serves the youth of these low-income agricultural communities.