Recycling and community center Chira

Topics: Sustainable business and financing, Sustainable and inclusive cities and buildings, Sustainable lifestyles and education
Keywords: sustainable construction, upcycling, waste management, participatory design, environmental education

Marije van Lidth de Jeude1, Oliver Schütte1, Grethel Ulate2

1A-01 (A Company / A Foundation), Costa Rica / The Netherlands; 2Universidad Nacional – Heredia, Costa Rica;

The RCCC (Recycle and Community Center Chira Island, Costa Rica) has been shaped by a participatory design-and-build-studio. The project was initiated and will be run by an association of women, ADATA (Asociación de Damas Trabajando para el Ambiente). Their dream is an important step towards a sustainable solution for the growing garbage problem on the island.

Why is this Recycle and Community Center important?

Presently, there is no garbage collection whatsoever on the island; the 3000 inhabitants burn, bury or trash their (and the visiting tourists’) solid waste somewhere on land or in the sea. The center is a structural solution for the waste problems as an important part of the garbage can be collected there and the women can, with the machines that were donated to them, process the paper, glass, plastic and other recyclables and sell them to large recycling companies.

Furthermore, the group of women will engage in an upcycling process by producing jewelry and handicrafts made from recyclable materials, which will be sold internationally. In this way, the center will generate an income for women who now depend solely on traditional ways of fishing.

Many islands deal with similar waste problems; the RCCC could be an example for them.

The center offers not only a workplace but also a space for ADATA and other inhabitants to gather for meetings, events, trainings (e.g. environmental education for schoolchildren), exhibitions of handicrafts and a daycare center for the children of the women that are at work.

The design is of high aesthetic and functional quality; it combines traditional ways of living with modern building techniques, integrating the use of renewable energies like daylight, rainwater and recyclable material.

This is a multi-stakeholder project that is being developed thanks to financial and material contributions from UNDP, governmental institutions, universities, civil society and private parties.


Oliver Schütte graduated as an architect / urbanist in Aachen (Germany). After working with Eisenman Architects and the sculptor Richard Serra in New York (U.S.A.) in 1997 / 1998, he joined Rem Koolhaas / OMAMO for a six year period in Rotterdam (Netherlands). Accomplished projects include the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as well as the New Dutch Embassy in Berlin (Germany), which won the Mies van der Rohe Price in 2005. Oliver worked on the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at the Illinois Institute of Chicago (U.S.A.), the House in Bordeaux (France), the Masterplan for the City of Breda (Netherlands) and the Preservation Plan for Beijing (China), amongst others.

Oliver is specialized in climate dependent architecture and urban design, he is currently developing projects in Europe and Latin America. His works and writings have been published internationally; he is engaged in numerous academic activities at universities worldwide, including the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux (France), the Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería in Managua (Nicaragua), the University of Houston and the New York Institute for Technology (U.S.A.), as well as the Universidad de Costa Rica, Universidad Latina and the Universidad Veritas (Costa Rica). In 2014, Oliver was appointed through the Costa Rican Ministry of Culture as the commissioner and chief curator of the first ever Costa Rican national pavilion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice.

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