Classroom Renovation

Capital campaign project

We have begun renovations on an original brick building on our property with the goal of creating a classroom space. Our orientation with this project is toward the traditional, sustainable, and long lasting.

In the past five years in Uruguay we have learned about different methods of bioconstruction, a kind of building that uses local, earthen and natural materials, as well as traditional construction methods. We would like to put together the best of the traditional and the modern to make a classroom that is a model for experimental learning!

The building was built sometime in the 1920s with local adobe bricks and clay mortar. The floors are brick and the roof is corrugated metal. We believe this building was a home on an original agricultural smallholding. When we purchased the property in 2012 the building was in ruin and disrepair. We have cleaned it of debris and have been using it as a storage shed and workshop since our family came to Uruguay in 2016.

Our goal for the building is to be multi-use. We want to build a beautiful classroom that highlights the ways in which vernacular buildings reflect local cultural resources and orientations. When we are not hosting student groups we will use the classroom as an office, a meeting space for local groups, and a music room for our family.

We like to think long term. We want to make a beautiful building that will be durable and useful in many contexts and throughout time.

The renovation will include:

  • Replacing and insulating the roofing
  • Replacing the rotting timber rafters infested with wood beetles
  • Tuckpointing the brickwork with a mixture of earth, clay and lime plaster
  • Covering the interior walls with natural, traditional lime plaster
  • Getting doors and windows hand crafted by a local artisan from sustainably harvested wood
  • Insulating with natural materials for lower energy use in heating and cooling
  • Building a passive solar gallery out of a grape arbor
  • Making a tiled outdoor walkway
  • Designing with a mind toward the traditional, local and indigenous

Traditional and local architecture

Local vernacular architecture is colonial-inspired, with curved archways, plaster exteriors and natural masonry.

Sustainable building

We have spent time exploring alternative building methods, what’s called bioconstruction here in Uruguay. One of the most prominent forms of bioconstruction is Earthship – which originated with architext Michael Reynolds in Taos, NM. Ashley did an ethnography and workshop with Earthship in March 2019 when they came to Uruguay to build Caliu Earthship hotel in nearby Colonia del Sacramento.

Ashley also attended a weekend workshop with Gernot Minke, the foremost earth building architect and academic, based in Germany. At this workshop she explored options for natural building, and learned about passive solar principles and how to build naturally in the specific climactic conditions of Uruguay.

Our philosophical approach

Throughout all of this research we have found that if you are someone interested in learning from the best of the traditional and the best of modern then you will be among a very niche crowd. People are often either one or the other. So that means you have to experiment, to go it mostly alone.

This is where we are. We don’t reject modern things, but we embrace the wisdom of the past. So that means few will truly “get” us. We have to muscle our way through, figuring it out as we go along.

So now we embark on an adventure without a guidebook or map, but with an orientation toward building thoughtfully, centering local knowledge and expertise. Toward learning as we go. Toward teaching about both our successes and failures in a classroom made by our successes and failures.


– Building materials $15,000
– Costs for architectural plans, builder and craft consultants $5,000
– Labor for skilled tradesmen $5,000
– Fixtures, desks, furnishings $5,000
– Artisan, craft bespoke windows and door in traditional style $4,000
– Classroom electronics, 2 projectors and screens, 2 computers $3,000
– Contingency costs. Inflation and other unforeseen issues $7,500
Total cost for the project will be $44,500



Make a tax deductible donation via credit card at The Rizoma Foundation

If you would like to donate by paper check please send Ashley an email directly for mailing address: