San Rafael Blend: Coffee in Architecture
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The San Rafael Blend project focuses on rehabilitating the existing mills and buildings of the existing coffee farm "Finca San Rafael" in Purulha, Guatemala, to develop a tourism complex. The purpose is to incorporate a new program that will retain the cultural and historic contributions to the site combined with a modern take on coffee production. The San Rafael farm has been owned by the Thomae family since the 1800s, when the family immigrated to Guatemala from Germany. Since then, the farm has operated mainly as a coffee plantation, contributing to one of the country's biggest industries, and partaking in one of the defining elements of Guatemalan culture. Besides existing as a historic farm, one that has been around for more than 200 years, the farm has also made an economic and cultural impact on the surrounding communities, contributing as well with new renewable resources in the form of a local hydroelectric plant. The new project will propose an even larger, positive economic impact, taking into consideration the cultural effects and disruptions that innovation could bring into the site. With the addition of the tourism into the farm, the project aims to rehabilitate, revitalize, and modernize the coffee production process to offer an educational experience to coffee enthusiasts, and coffee experts alike. The rehabilitation of the existing processing mill will aid in the exploration of technological and cultural contributions the farm has offered to coffee production. Particularly as the farm participates in the nation's unique way of growing coffee, which is under the shade of taller trees. The analysis of the existing edifications of the site will provide insight into other architectural historic and cultural heritage that continually influences the farm's owners, workers, and surrounding communities. The main purpose is to rehabilitate the mills for efficient coffee production, introduction of innovative technology, sustainable practices, and safe touristic experiences. The mill's renovation begins by determining what parts of the building envelopes and industrial structure are important to retain, as well as what will change and showcase what existed in a new way. For instance, the patios used for drying coffee are a physical element of the process that will remain the same, relating to physical contact with the coffee, and as a concept in this project, are also connected to the cultural use of "patios" in colonial residences, and are used throughout the project to connect the new program with the old. The new program provides spaces for coffee roasting, tasting, and selling, and appropriate areas for tourism hospitality, such as a hotel and souvenir/artisanal shop. These areas will reflect the authentic character of the region, country, and its ecological environment, so that in one place they have an educational experience that aids in the understanding of coffee production, as well as Guatemalan culture.
Chacon Portillo, Maria F. (2021). San Rafael Blend: Coffee in Architecture. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from