HUSKS AND HULLS: DISPARITIES, SEPARATIONS AND TERRITORIES OF A COFFEE ORCHARD IN PANAMA.
Coffee, as an international commodity and unique agricultural product, materialises global economic disparities. Consumers, while showing increasing concern for the origins and supply chain of the coffee from farm to cup, pay prices significantly higher in urban cafés than the wages paid to those who pick the coffee. These workers frequently live impoverished lives, staying in temporary accommodation near the coffee orchard but away from their homes during harvesting seasons. Their living conditions are made more difficult by increasingly unstable weather, which results in insufficient water during the dry season, and more volatile and destructive rains during the wet season. This report begins with a re-telling of this economic disparity, the economy of global coffee production, and the social contradictions between a luxury coffee market and the critical income situation of the coffee farmers.
Among those countries in which coffee can be grown, this disparity is particularly pronounced in Panama. Panama possesses a unique combination of nutritious volcanic soil and humid climatic conditions. It is the source of the world’s most expensive coffee, and yet utterly reliant on seasonal migrant workers from a protected indigenous reserve for labour. These workers, in turn, are dependent on the income from the coffee orchards (from both picking the coffee and a growing economy of coffee-tourism) to engage with the capitalist society within which their indigenous group find themselves enmeshed. Through different architectural approaches, which together offer a systematic response to the challenges faced by these people, Husks and Hulls responds to the context of the rainforest which surrounds the coffee orchards of Panama, local weather conditions and approaches to sustainably occupying the volcanic landscape of Panama (both economic and environmental sustainability) to propose accommodation for workers, coffee production spaces, and a re-organisation of the coffee plantation to restore lost rainforest space. It works at different scales: a roof forms an extension of the surrounding tree canopy, water walls service and shelter, and hull-like houses form enclosures and protections against moisture. All engage with water, with shade and growth.