In 2019, the AA Guatemala Visiting School will travel to the department of Izabal, an astonishing territory opened to Amatique Bay, a large bay extended along the eastern coast of Guatemala in the Caribbean Sea. The department surrounds Lake Izabal, Guatemala’s largest lake, connected to Amatique Bay through Río Dulce.

This year, the objective of the AA Guatemala Visiting School will be to explore these two extraordinarily relevant ecosystems of Guatemala, Lake Izabal and Amatique Bay, both rich and complex from the environmental, the social and the economic points of view. We will work at two different scales. First, we will study this territory at a large scale, with the aim of understanding the different dynamics of these wonderful landscapes and identifying the main problems and challenges. We will visit different villages, interview local people, and produce new cartographies of the most underexplored areas by learning and applying aerial mapping techniques with drones and Geographic Information Systems. Then, we will work at an architectural scale, with the objective of defining more detailed architectural projects in response to specific problems and needs previously identified.

Where and when?

The 12-day workshop has been postponed and new dates have to be decided yet. It will take place at two different locations. The meeting point for all participants will be Guatemala City, from whence the group will travel to Misión El Faro (The Lighthouse), near Livingston. Here, we will establish a 6-day base camp from where we will conduct all field trips and travel to different locations. We will explore the Guatemalan Caribbean coast, Amatique Bay, while visiting different small villages as well as Livingston and Puerto Barrios, the two main cities. We will also navigate along Río Dulce and Izabal Lake. A trip to Tikal will be also offered to the students interested in visiting this impressive Mayan complex. After our stay in Livingston, the workshop will continue with a 5-day stay in Guatemala City, at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) campus’ facilities, where we will develop different proposals based on the different analyses and insights uncovered throughout the workshop.

Workshop study area | Map inspired by Lewis Carrol’s “Ocean Chart”  map of nothing


First phase: Students as cartographers

No maps. To the extent of our knowledge, the territory we will be travelling to is lacking of proper maps or plans. Therefore, there is an absolute need of maps, understood as instruments that support the study and the analysis of the territory, and the development of proposals. Cartography, known as the art and science, the study and practice, of making maps, will be the focus of this first phase. Inspired in Lewis Carrol’s “Ocean Chart” map of nothing, Students will work as the first cartographers of this territory. In order to do so, they will:

  • Learn basic cartographic techniques: Introduction to aerial mapping with drones and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
  • Visit different villages and other sites, identifying and locating main facilities, services, existing infrastructure and dwellings
  • Create maps, through working sessions with drones and GIS.

After this first phase, students will be divided into two groups, with the aim of focusing the work in two different scales.

Territorial scale
Second phase: Students as cartographers (II)
  • Students will develop further their cartographic skills, in order to produce more sophisticated maps.
  • Tutorials on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and collaborative mapping: Open Street Map Project.
  • Working sessions with GIS with the aim of producing more informed maps for the whole territory of study.
Third phase: Students as analysts: Understanding the territory
  • Analysis of existing mobility, services, facilities and infrastructure
  • Analysis of the villages from the socio-economic point of view
  • Identification of main needs, problems and challenges + Identification of sites of opportunity
Fourth phase: Atlas of envisions. Future charts
  • Students will develop an atlas of future charts, of envisions, imagining possible futures for this territory. 
  • The outputs must be a collection of “Future Charts”, maps inspired in Lewis Carrol’s “Ocean Chart”, combining the aesthetic of that historical map with the technological one obtained from the work with GIS

Architectural scale
Second phase: Study of local architecture
  • Students will study local architecture during the different trips and visits through data gathering, photos, videos, architectural drawings, and construction techniques and details.
  • We will conduct an insight into architecture in the landscapes of water: Particular analysis of the way architecture is adapted to the particular environments of the lakeshore and the seashore.
  • Students will identify what are the most successful and sustainable traditional techniques developed in the study area, which can be further developed and implemented in future projects.
Third phase: Proposals
  • Students will develop a single proposal: A system of independent but articulated small projects
  • Each project will be located in a particular site, selected by the students, in the villages of the study area or at other locations identified as sites of opportunity. 
  • The aim of the proposal will be to foster local development, with a particular focus on sustainable tourism. 
  • The students will define the program respective to each project. For instance: ateliers and workshops for local arts and crafts, exhibition spaces for the communication of local culture.
  • Each project will be developed upon sustainability principles and in relation to traditional techniques.