Many Many Thanks to Techo for this amazing gift of hand ink drawings of  favorite images taken by students in the campamentos during our research trip.  We took a total of 5,000 photos in two weeks, and searching through them is no small feat. Askan, Julian & Andreas drew 100+ of these photos in a poster size present for the class.  A M A Z I N G!!!!!

DesignMatters made a poster copy for each student and it is loads of fun to look through the drawings to recognize the people, places, and stories represented by the images…..


Safe Agua Class -


Our research trip to Chile was my first time south of the equator and my first time on a Sourthern continent. I was amazed at how friendly the people were. They were very warm, despite the chilly winter temperatures.

The day I flew into Santiago was the same day of our first visit to the campamentos. I was sick by the 4th day, so I didn’t see much of Chile, but what I did see was the friendliness of the people. The night of our first visit to the campamentos with Un Techo, I remember Laura’s husband greeted us, and of course, Rosita was really welcoming. Even though I had no idea who she was, she was open hearted and not embarrassed of what she had and very clear about what she wanted.

I had an allergy to something in the campamentos that made me sick. The casita we lived in was cold, too, making it worse. By the 4th night I was very sick and quarantined myself. I spent the night in a hotel.

By Friday, the fifth day, I went to the hospital by myself. I spent a half an hour trying to find the emergency room, because I don’t speak Spanish. Even though the nurses didn’t speak English, the doctor’s were fluent and did their best to make me comfortable.

Seven hours in a hospital is sort of scary. I worried that I had H1N1. One person next to me had a seizure, there were screaming people in the hall, I wondered if I would ever leave. I started writing to occupy myself, about how I felt and what I would do when I got home. I was home sick. Finally, the doctor came in and said I didn’t have any serious illness, but that I had a bacterial infection that was not contagious and a cold, which was. I got sick because I didn’t have enough rest on the first few days, so I had no energy to fight the cold.

I wound up staying in a hotel for seven days. Marianna and David were very kind and came to visit on my second or third day. Dan and Penny came during the week and brought me soup, bread, and fruit. Andres came on my second doctor’s visit to translate and drove me back to my hotel. The last day, I was thinking, “What happened to people who get sick in the campamentos? Do they get the same royal treatment that I had gotten? Do they still have to go to work, shower in freezing temperatures with no hot water? How do they take care of themselves when they got sick?”

All these thoughts, made me feel really lucky about where I am in my life. I have my own house and all my family is with me. This experience makes me even more interested in health systems and health-related problems.


Here are x-rays of my head and chest from my hospital visits


erica with her xray

Side Note:

My background is in health and science, so when Erica expressed her interest in dealing with health related issues for the project, Dan and Penny thought we would make a good team. We decided to divide our health concerns into two categories, injury and illness. Based on the class’ observations in the campamentos, Erica and I identified 3 main health issues we would like to explore:

  1. Preventable injury from falling or slipping on a wet surface.
  2. Preventable illness from drinking contaminated water.
  3. Preventable injury from performing laundry and other chores.

These issues deal with the physical environment in which residents in the campamentos work with water. We’d like to explore ways to make it safer to work with and drink water, by avoiding slippery surfaces, making chores easier to avoid muscle strain, and treating water and preventing recontamination during storage.


Un tributo al creador de esta casa en el arbol

For me this was one of the most memorable spaces from our trip to Chile. During our visit to one of the less developed areas in the outskirts of Santiago, we were all intrigued by the image of this tree house. Minutes later we were introduced to one of the families who live in the informal campamento and they welcomed us in their house. A mother of three kids talked proudly of the artistic talent of her 12 year old son who built the tree house that we just saw in front. Some of us decided to climb the stairs to see the intriguing house and we found a very surprising space.

The structure and the details of the construction were amazing; with every material that was put together you could see the creativity and resourcefulness of the inventor. From the refrigerator door that made the main entrance to the windows with glow-in-the-dark stars. A little desk with toys and books, a white board to draw and a comfortable chair all together made a magic space above the tough reality. From up there you could see two different faces of that reality: the informal campamento and the permanent houses from one of the finished projects from “Un Techo para Chile”.


All my feelings as a mother were afloat and I could not stop thinking about this boy and all the opportunities that he will have exploring the same talent he used to build this house from scratch. In one of the corners I found one of the most intriguing and inspiring creations: a water drinking system made with reused materials. I never got to meet the boy, but I have not stopped thinking about him with admiration and the wish that I could find some way to encourage him to pursue his talent. I will start with this entry as a tribute to his creativity, hoping I will find a way for him to see it.


¡Mi amigo Carlos!

As I reflect on our trip to Chile and the visits with the amazing families we had the pleasure of interacting with, one thing continues to surprise me- The overwhelming connection I feel with those families and how welcome I felt when entering their home.

My limited knowledge of the Spanish language paired with the incredibly personal topics of discussion had an surprisingly SMALL impact on my ability to interact and connect with the beautiful people living in the Campamentos. Truthfully, I am not sure exactly what I expected my experience in the Campamentos to be- but the friendships I acquired and the impact those friends had/have on my life is something that will undoubtably stay with me forever.


One person I met on the journey surprised me with his courage, curiosity and amazing sense of humor. To him and I am thankful for the lessons he taught me in such a short time!

Carlos, warmed up and was accepting of three complete strangers that came into his home, permitted us to ask his family numerous personal questions and was understanding of the language barrier, yet continued to interact with us as if none of those factors even phased him! He is one of the smartest, bravest and friendliest people I have met- in the Campamentos, in Chile, and on the Globe! Carlos is an 11 year old autistic child.

I’d like to share a story, not about an interaction I had with 11 year old Carlos, but one that I witnessed between him and my team member KC.

Carlos & Group

Sitting at the dining room table in Carlos’s Grandmother’s Media agua- with the T.V. running in the background, KC- a ZERO Spanish speaker, and Carlos- a FLUENT Spanish speaker, sat down with a pad of paper and a dozen colored pencils. Both of them had the instructions to draw their homes. KC, drew an apartment complex with several people and his bike sitting outside. Carlos drew a soccer field!

KC & Carlos

The Field represented the location of where his previous house was located; however, in a matter of seconds the drawing was no longer his home… it was the WORLD CUP soccer Field, and the game between the USA and CHILE was about to begin!

KC was playing for the USA, and Carlos was the team captain for Chile! Carlos gave KC lessons on how to “kick” the soccer ball on the page- which consisted of lining up a pencil on a pre-drawn player and “shooting” the pencil in the direction of the goal. The game lasted about 10 minutes ultimately ending with the overwhelming 4-0 win for CHILE! All of the exchanges between the two were with gestures, facial expressions and a bunch of chatter in languages that neither one understood! -I think the only English exchange between the two was a comment about the death of Michael Jackson (which I found amusing!)

KC & Carlos

Witnessing this interaction between two people who not only don’t speak each-others spoken language, but come from different cultures, countries, ages, social-status and family structures, was incredibly touching and illustrated that the differences among all of us sitting in that room were really quite SMALL and despite those challenges we were still able to communicate- as long as we had an open-heart and kept an open-mind.

Thank you, Carlos for letting us into your life! You are an inspiration and I look forward to watching you follow your dreams!


Universidad Diego Portales

Art Center Crew - 122

Props to the professors and students in the I.D. program at universidad diego portales for sharing your research and projects with us. The lecture was very informative and gave me great insights into some of the challenges that lie ahead of us. Also, taking a smoke break in the hallway was thoroughly enjoyable. thank you!

Personal Impression

This whole experience has really impacted me in many ways. Prior to the Chile trip I was confident in type of work and studio I wanted to be involved in once I graduated. I thought I had it all figured out.

But, after working with Un Techo Para Chile, it really opened up my eyes to a whole new world and opportunities in design. Working with the families and seeing how much of an impact we made in those two weeks was extremely rewarding. No other experience or project has made me feel the way this trip did. It was amazing.


Thanks to Askan, Andres, Julian and Rafael. You guys were great host. Thanks for the good times and chance to work together. See you October!

Ramon Coronado

Kite Flying for Chilean Independence Day

We celebrated Chilean Independence day traditions of flying kites (volantines) and having a BBQ (asada)! Thanks Nubia for hosting the festivities!
Check out more pix HERE.
- Dan and Penny



This is a link to a document that contains interesting information and background about the water system in Chile; it talks specifically about the company that delivers water in Santiago (the same that installed the emergency tank before our visit). It also includes some interesting numbers like the water tariff in Santiago. This information may lead to a very interesting business model…


by Stella

My 2 cents on ‘Responsible’ Design:

Is it possible to make exceptions in sustainability and still consider our efforts to be responsible and conscientious? It is a question we must all ask, as it is not always in-line with our primary goal as designers. For SWC, we are designing to improve the quality of life for those living in the slums of Chile, and possibly, to even reduce illness and save lives. This is an extraordinary cause and not an easy task to say the least. Beyond the design challenge with the limited materials and resources, there are also family dynamics, economic challenges, and political struggles to also be addressed. If after 12 weeks, we are able to develop a product and system to address some these issues successfully, are we to reconsider their implementation if they are not ecologically sound? Who is to decide whether a child in the slums should sacrifice his or her health because it may impact a rare species of birds in Patagonia? Which is a more pressing issue? Which deserves priority over the other?

The answers to these questions will differ from designer to designer, and the answer is just that: a personal decision. This is why sustainability must be implemented into our design phase from the very beginning, to avoid such situations. If one designs with sustainability in mind, then the design process should answer this great dilemma all on its own. Though, it is easy where such a dilemma can arise.

My personal  experience: Fall 2008 I was part of  a team designing potable water solutions for Pasaquim, Guatemala. The team included two mechanical engineer students, one grad chemist, an industrial designer from Guatemala, and myself, the product designer. Through our research and our various sources in Guatemala, we realized how limited our access to sustainable materials were, especially with our design specifications. More importantly, the citizens of Pasaquim were limited by these materials and supplies, both by availability and financially. So, we were faced with a dilemma: start the design process again and find another solution since we were unable to find a sustainable that met our specifications, or take keep our clever approach towards this problem and use PVC as the housing material. PVC is extremely affordable, accessible in every hardware store in Guatemala, and easy to work with. On the flip side, it is one of the worst man made materials when it comes to environmental and human health (in production).

Awa Water Filter, 2008

Though the debate went on, the majority of the team made the decision to go with PVC because it satisfied our primary goal and could potentially make a huge dent in the 54% of child deaths caused by malnutrition and lack of potable water. I was not a supporter of the decision to accept this iteration of the design as our final prototype, but at the same time, I stayed on the team, and was in full support of its cause. We presented our design, prototype, bacteria test results from the prototype, and our business model at the end of the term, and tied for the grand prize. This summer several prototypes have been taken down to Guatemala for testing in the environment before being taken into limited production and allowed for the business model to be tested. This would normally be great news and an amazing reward for someone who is a big supporter of design for social causes, but I can’t help thinking about the toxic industry and market potential i’ve helped introduce to this remote region of Guatemala. Was our design a success? Was our design responsible? Only we, the designers and answer that question. Perhaps this is not a question of responsibility, but a question of morality.


hitting close to home

About halfway through our research in Santiago, working in the campamentos, I realized something. While our research subject seemed so far removed from our daily reality, in a different country and a different language, it was not quite as foreign to me as I may have thought.
My sister recently moved to Hilo, Hawaii where she has been building a house with her partner. The catch? The house is located down a 3 mile dirt road, about a 45 minute drive from any semblance of civilization. Like the families I had been meeting with all week, she too has no running water, no electricity and no gas. Although this is by choice and not necessity, she encounters many of the same challenges as the families in the campamentos.
Luckily, the rainfall in Hawaii provides a constant, free water source, but harnessing it is another problem altogether. She collects water on her roof to provide pressure for a shower, uses a composting toilet system that is about as private as those we saw in Santiago and has to purchase drinking water via trips into town.
I will keep you updated on her new lifestyle and continue exploring the differences, similarities and creative solutions she encounters along the way!