February 9, 2024 Al Borde Partner Joins Interior Architecture Faculty as Visiting Professor

David Barragán (dah-VEED bah-rah-GAHN), co-founder and partner of the Ecuadorian architecture studio Al Borde, joins the School of Interior Architecture this semester as its second visiting professor. 

Black and white image of David Barragán.

Barragán and his colleagues showcase their projects internationally including “Raw Threshold,” The Beauty of Impermance at the 2023 Sharjah Architecture Triennial in the United Arab Emirates; under the theme of Crossroads: Building the Resilient City at the 2021 Soeul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in South Korea; “Dark Resources,” Reporting from the Front at the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture in Italy; “House Under Construction,” The State of the Art at the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial in the United States; The Three Hopes,” Réenchanter le Monde at the 2014 Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris, France; and “1993,” Way of Collaboration at the 2013 Sao Paulo Architecture Biennial in Brazil. 

“David and Al Borde’s practice has transformed communities,” said Milagros Zingoni Phielipp, director of the School of Interior Architecture. “His work with Al Borde exemplifies the fusion of creativity and collaboration, shaping spaces that not only inspire but uplift those who need it most. Our students will learn to embrace working with different materials and empowering others through design.” 

A native of Quito, Ecuador, Barragán earned an undergraduate degree in architecture from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in 2005. He was awarded the Gold Medal, the highest architecture student award in Ecuador, at the Pan American Biennial of Architecture of Quito. His project focused on incremental social housing, with emphasis on public space and how it can improve the quality of life, was selected amongst the top of the country’s architecture theses. 

Al Borde partners. From left to right: Esteban Benavides, Maríaluisa Borja, David Barragán, and Pascual Gangotena.
From left to right: Esteban Benavides, Maríaluisa Borja, David Barragán, and Pascual Gangotena.

In 2007, he started Al Borde with a former classmate, Pascual Gangotena, and which has grown to four partners, Maríaluisa Borja and Esteban Benavides. In 2019, the editors of Domus named the firm as one of the top 100 architecture firms in the world.  

A pilar of Al Borde’s practice focuses on what they refer to as public interest design. 

“The majority of our work is in Ecuador, on the outskirts,” Barragán said. “We believe this kind of approach provides design to people need it the most. These kinds of projects are schools in rural areas, community centers, and community libraries.” 

The firm has implemented a culture of participatory design and construction to make low-budget projects collaborative efforts with the community. Two years after establishing Al Borde, Barragán and his partner were approached about their first public interest project, a design build project for a community school on the coast of Manabí in Ecuador. 

“We learned to utilize our access to different kinds of goods. We may use bamboo to create the walls, or we have a very common straw that you can use for the ceiling so that becomes a part of the budget. The Puerto Cabuyal community is a fishing village, so all of the community knew how to build houses. They self-constructed their houses because they don’t have access to public housing or any kind of governmental help or support.” 

Barragán says his mind expanded with possibilities when he realized money was not his only available resource. “We never expected how powerful it would be and we never expected it to become a core of our practice,” he said. 

Nueva Esperanza School, which translates to New Hope, drew international attention and recognition for their constraints leading to creativity. The boat-shaped building is comprised of a timber deck resting on foundation piles, with bamboo walls and a palm wooden structure are topped by a roof made of knitted straw scarf or “cade.” 

Earlier this month, Al Borde opened its most recent public interest design, the Yuyarina Pacha community library in the Amazon jungle. The community impact will expand with new projects developed around fair trade and environmental preservation through the support of a grant by the RE:ARC Institute’s Practice Lab. 

In addition to his practice, Barragán taught at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador from 2009 to 2016, served as a visiting professor at institutions in Peru and Chile, and led workshops and lectures in the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. As the spring 2024 visiting professor, he will lead second and fourth-year design build studios.