Ecocentro IPEC is an ecological centre that is snuggled in the valley of Mar de Guerra in Pirenopolis, Goais, the savannah of Brazil. It’s one of a kind. A giant dome of more than 200 unfired bricks will greet you. And if you’re lucky enough to spend the night, a thousand stars will light your way.
In the beginning…
Ecocentro IPEC (Instituto de Permacultura e Ecovilas do Cerrado) was loving founded by Lucia Legan and Andre Soares. Walking with them the whole way was Laila Helena, only a child at the time. In the beginning, the task looked a little daunting, as the vision was grand, trying to create a permaculture reference centre that would inspire people to tread lightly on this planet.
It was a simple beginning. The small shack housed around 300 bats and quite a few rats. First things first, take them back to the forest.
When we started Ecocentro IPEC, people imagined that we would be living in a forest or a coastal plot. I mean, you are in Brazil, right?! But Andre ignored his temptation to settle into a natural forest and followed his gut feeling by purchasing a piece of land that was degraded, cow trodden and strangely silent. Not many birds or animals in the area apart from barking dogs. Andre wanted to demonstrate that, in fact, humans could have a positive footprint.
Ecocentro IPEC in 1999, then a mere ten years later – 2009.
Lucy put her love of planting into action. With a stream of volunteers and in a relatively short time, the area was reforested. This created a positive vibe. People were drawn to reforest their parcel of land. The “wow” effect continued when people walked through the centre.
Building with soil is a continual passion of Andre’s. In 2001, Andre introduced the concept of natural building in the form of a course called Bioconstruindo. Now don’t get me wrong, Brazil has a long history of building a type of wattle and daub house. Yet this was seen as an inferior form of housing. So, Andre and the Ecocentro team decided to change this concept by showing people how houses made of soil could be superior to concrete houses in structure, comfort and style.
This dome is made from over 200,000 unfired bricks. It sits about 150 people comfortably.
As a group, we understood the need for permaculture design to be functional, culturally relevant and artistic. We have taken inspiration from great designers such as Gaudi, Hassan Fathy, Frank Lloyd Wright and the historical wonders of settlement design like the Incas, the Persians and the Sub Saharan tribes. And most of all, from nature.
Fusing art with functionality – Ecocentro IPEC.
Ecocentro IPEC now demonstrates various natural building techniques and models that are low cost, energy-efficient, use local materials and are beautiful. We have more than 8500 sq. metres of ecological buildings, composting toilets, biological wastewater treatment, ecological gardens, food forests and many replicable technologies developed with communities that represent solutions for social transformation. Some of the building techniques that you will see at Ecocentro include:
- Superabode, also known as earthbag building and adobe, is among the earliest building techniques and is used worldwide.
- Rammed earth exists historically in nearly every country in the world;
- Cob building and light clay building.
With the support of P.A.L. and Ali Sharif, our living and learning community were able to train people in permaculture design, organic agriculture and natural building from the U.S.A., Australia, Haiti, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, all regions of Brazil and other countries of Latin America. Our program Escola Sustentável has gone to schools throughout Brazil. Watch the interview with Ali Sharif, a permaculture pioneer with Wesley Roe here.
Check out our book, Planet Schooling – How to create a permaculture living laboratory in your backyard for homeschooling activities. Purchase here.