Iche Ecosystem Is A Center for Culinary Innovation in The Canton of San Vicente￼
Food plays a crucial role in society. Apart from being a necessity in the sustenance of life, food creates connections within a community. Every place has specific cuisines that have been part of their culture and identity. New generations try to uplift local food and innovate traditional flavors as society transforms overtime.
In San Vicente, Ecuador, a structure sits in a mountain that creates an ecosystem for food innovation. Designed by Enrique Mora, Iche Ecosystem Culinary Center was born after the earthquake of April 2016. It is a space which aims to make food a powerful tool to transform society. With Manabita food as its center, the place consists of training, research and development, and incubation units that value traditions and integrate innovation into the different processes.
Iche forms together with other institutions the joint route of tourism and gastronomy in Manabi. It is also a part of the International Network of Culinary Innovation Laboratory.
The culinary center is made up of four pillars that generate a hybrid program developed on the ground floor that merges a school, a restaurant, a culinary innovation laboratory, an incubator for gastronomic ventures, and an apartment on the top floor. The architect explains that the spaces are configured in such a way that they generate two enclosures. First is an intimate one where orchards of local products are located. The other is a more public front one that opens onto the surrounding landscape and views of the sea.
The School is located at the first pillar. It aims to generate a connection between the students and the deepest roots of the Manabita identity and its innovation capacities. The space features an open floor plan, opening up on three sides, using mobile furniture that allows different configurations of space for the workshops.
The Restaurant, meanwhile, is a demonstrative plot. Visitors will have a gastronomic experience that connects tradition and innovations. The students apply what they have learned in the classroom under the approach of “learning by doing.” When it comes to the layout, the restaurant is an open and continuous space, connecting the orchard area with the front space, opening the views to the sea and the mountainous area.
The Culinary Innovation Laboratory occupies the third pillar. It is a space dedicated for technological innovation in the kitchen that works to add value to local products, catalhyze gastronomic ventures, and value agricultural and culinary heritage.
The fourth pillar is where the Gastronomic Entrepreneurship Incubator is located. It supports the students of the school and the gastronomic entrepreneurs to advance towards sustainability and generation of shaped prosperity. Its goal is to support ideas that seek to make food a catalyst for the conservation of ecosystems, economic reactivation, and improvements in the health of individuals and society.
The building was constructed using a main steel structure. It has a rigorous modulation which allows for generating a rhythm in the development of solids and voids. “We decided to use materials from the sector such as handmade clay brick so that the cost of the work was reduced while allowing the incorporation of local labor. Teak wood extracted from neighboring farms was used in the envelopes. The gabled roof evokes local and traditional Manabita constructions and allows the project to be protected from the sun with large eaves,” the architect explains.
Finally, the proposal also incorporates bioclimatic criteria like the use of open spaces to allow cross ventilation and materials with low environmental impact. There is also a biodigester to recover gray water to use to irrigate the orchards, as well as a space for composting, which is later used in the restaurant’s orchard.
Photography: JAG Studio, Enrique Mora, ONG Fuegos, Daniel Portilla