Marcela Argüello

Pueblos Verdes: A Thriving, Sustainable, Nature-Based Coastal Community

Project Site: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Sector: Private
Disciplines: Architecture, Urban Planning
Collaborators: EcoForest Developments (Desarrollos EcoForestal S.A), Paso Pacífico,  Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)

Born and raised in Costa Rica, to a Nicaraguan mother and father, Marcela understood from an early age the role that architecture has in shaping our identity, defining our sense of belonging and sense of place.

After earning a Bachelor of Architecture from Catholic University of Nicaragua, Marcela joined Simplemente Madera in 2012, a Nicaraguan-based company with an emphasis on sustainability and place-specific craft and design.

Her commitment to an integrated design process, combined with her practical sense of construction and materiality have resulted in original designs for local and international hotels, private residences and eco-lodges that celebrate each unique site and connect people to the natural environment while paying homage to the local context.

Pueblos Verdes project pivots around one of the great threats to shorebirds and the conservation of coastal areas: the loss of habitat from coastal development and disturbance from tourism activity. San Juan del Sur development has focused mainly on economic growth and tourism experience, often neglecting the needs of the local people, coastal ecosystems health and biodiversity.

Pueblos Verdes Vision Plan aims to create an inclusive, resilient and sustainable community designed for humans and the environment, through management, restoration and conservation of coastal ecosystems, shorebird habitat awareness, green infrastructure implementation and promotion of conservancy and biodiversity values in local planning, adoption of  best practices in tourism industry, and active multi-stakeholder engagement as a means to accelerate sustainability transformation.

The planning tool for Pueblos Verdes is based on the Design of Experiences of all the inhabitants, especially the most vulnerable, that is, the shorebird, the mangrove, the rain droplet and the soil. Specific projects will be determined through a multidisciplinary and community-based planning process for the different Development Dimensions: Biodiversity, Infrastructure, Productivity, Coexistence and Habitat.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Marcela believes that spatial, social and environmental awareness make for more meaningful architecture, this is why she is now pursuing the Coastal Solutions Fellows Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which will push her sustainability skills in new directions.

The host institution for this project is Desarrollos Ecoforestal S.A, a private sector institution committed to sustainable development for more than 20 years, and with extensive experience in agroforestry models, ecotourism and community development. Marcela’s mentor is Edgar Mora Altamirano, Senior Design Strategist at Gensler, specialist in territorial and urban planning, as well as public administration and communications. The main cross-sector collaborated is Sarah Otterstrom, ecology and conservation biology expert, founder and CEO of Paso Pacífico, a non-governmental organization that focuses on the restoration and consolidation of the biological corridor and conservation programs in the area and in conservation projects of Central America.