Cross-Cultural Collaboration: Notes from the Field

 In Culture, Design, Sustainable Design

Gettliffe Architecture generally focuses on projects to enhance the quality of life for members of the human family. However, a current project is looking also to make life better for turtles! Four species of sea turtle which nest near San Juan del Sur in southern Nicaragua are threatened, with their listings ranging from “vulnerable” to “critically endangered.” Human activity is largely to blame for the turtles’ plight. A collaborative of partners from Nicaragua and the U.S. has hired GA to design an ecotourism center as the centerpiece of a strategy to change the fate of these turtles. It will include educational and research facilities, as well as lodging for scientists, eco-tourists and volunteers. The center is being developed in collaboration with the surrounding community, and will benefit the local economy.


As part of this effort, Dominique and Alejandra recently conducted a community workshop of project stakeholders held close to the site. GA provided a preliminary feasibility study and conceptual designs as a catalyst for envisioning the project. Attendees from diverse geographical, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds came to offer their feedback and insights. Participants included the founding partners, a local co-op of farmers and cattle ranchers, and representatives from concerned NGOs and implicated government agencies. Patricia Barrios from Gettliffe Architecture’s sister office in Nicaragua and Sam Blohowiak of ITSA also helped facilitate the workshop. In all, around 25 people participated.


The challenge was giving voice to so many different perspectives and needs (including those of the turtles!). During one activity, participants split into smaller groups of three people to discuss individual esperanzas (hopes) for the project. Each participant wrote his or her esperanza on a piece of paper. These were posted on the wall and later discussed by the group as a whole. Individual concerns were treated in the same manner. This ensured that every idea would be heard and considered.


The result? Dominique reports that crucial insights and valuable information were obtained that will inform the master plan and architecture of the project. He stated, “For true ecotourism, community involvement is an essential value, and that’s what this workshop was about. This project will be a model for ecologically-conscious development that is beneficial to the community, while supporting endangered native species and ecosystems.”






Gettliffe Architecture is a Boulder, Colorado architecture firm with a sister studio in Managua, Nicaragua offering green design services from straw-bale homes to eco lodges around the globe. We believe that beautiful modern architectural design begins with careful consideration of earth, culture and community. Working with your ideas and vision, our team of green architects brings inspiring spaces to life that are kind to the planet and a pleasure to be in.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt