Aalto LAB Mexico (ALM), since 2012, focuses on the community called “Ejido 20 de Noviembre”, located in Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico. It is developed through the participation of students (labbers) from Aalto University, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico), and Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Ciudad de México (Technological Institute of Monterrey, Mexico City Campus). Additionally, ALM connects the community with the academia, civil society, and the public and private sectors of Mexico and Finland.
A wide range of disciplines, from Engineering, Science, Art, Design, Business, and Humanities and Social Sciences collaborate with the aim of decreasing social injustice while raising awareness of cultural values and about the environmental sustainability of the community. This is achieved by making use of collaborative design methods.
The main values of Aalto LABs are sustainability, lifelong learning and the sharing of culture on multiple levels. The hope is that through a long term collaboration, the people of El 20 de Noviembre will be inspired to actively tackle their own complex challenges.
It is presumed that ALM is a suitable means to navigate the paradox between development that imposes a way of living (e.g. houses made of bricks and pre-manufactured materials that become a status symbol and endanger the traditional construction techniques, because the Mayan house becomes “the house of the poor”), and cultural relativism, which might maintain practices that although traditional, might be unjust (e.g. women’s lack of interest in being part of the government body of the community) (Nussbaum & Sen, 1993). In step with Encore research team from Aalto ARTS, ALM highly values the voice of end users in the design process; moreover, encouraging people of El 20 to raise their voices is rendered as a means to keep their culture alive, that is, in constant transformation, but not anymore exclusively due to external pressure.