Holcim Foundation


It takes a village to raise a building

An Amazon community participate in design and construction

The engagement of the community during the design and construction process is a remarkable contribution to social inclusion and knowledge transfer in this Holcim Awards winning project. Villagers of the Iratapuro River community in north-eastern Brazil collect and process Brazil nuts. They share the profits of extracted nut oil supplied to Natura, a cosmetics company.

A20LAsiBR-Awards-154-55.jpgFitting the community needs in every aspect

Architect Gustavo Utrabo of Estúdio Gustavo Utrabo based in São Paulo was commissioned by Natura to plan and execute a development project for the local nut industry. The community spends three to five months in the forest collecting and cleaning Brazil nuts that have fallen from the trees, and another four months processing the nuts in the village. For the remaining three months, they have no income at all. So, Gustavo Utrabo involved local sin the building process to develop new skills and earn additional income in the off season.

Local materials and local labour cycles

It would have been extremely inconvenient and costly to transport machines and materials to the construction site. Forest lumber is used to create the building canopy and walls used to create functional bays are constructed from large mud bricks that use a mixture of local soil, a little cement, and sand from the river. 


The thick walls ensure a pleasant climate, and the openness of the overall building provides high flexibility to accommodate any future changes the working environment may require.

An important aspect of many sustainable construction projects is the participatory design approach: The people who will use a building should be involved in its creation. In order to realize the full effect of this approach, architects sometimes have to embark on adventurous journeys.

Read the full interview:

“Adding a political statement” in Sixth Holcim Awards

Last Updated: June 16, 2022
Article Details
Laranjal do Jari, Brazil
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