Decorated with local symbols and built using sustainable materials, Health&Help Chuinajtajuyup represents one Russian NGO’s push to bring easy-access healthcare to a mountainous Guatemalan village.
Designed by Elizaveta and Mikhail Shishin from Martlet Architects, the building draws inspiration from local Maya culture, incorporating bright colours and geometric shapes. The designers were also inspired by corn, a Guatemalan staple food. The intricate colour combinations of local corn ears, ranging from white and pale yellow to purple, blue, and terracotta, were used to decorate the clinic’s net-like wooden facade.
Located high up in the mountains, the clinic was built using a limited budget of £20,000, raised via crowdfunding. As a result, the architects relied heavily on volunteer work and locally sourced materials, such as wood, clay, sand, and gravel.
Martlet Architects were keen to involve the local community in the building process. “We wanted to spark interest in the project and secured their involvement to make sure [local people] will treat this clinic as their own,” Shishina told The Calvert Journal.
Opened to the public in 2017, the complex now hosts the clinic itself, a patio, and an orchard of lime, tangerine and avocado trees. There is also lodging for up to nine professional doctors who come to Chuinajtajuyup as volunteers from elsewhere in Guatemala, as well as countries as far away as Russia, Portugal, and Chile. The staff attend to around 50 visitors per day, providing first aid, general therapeutic advice, birth-giving assistance and surgeries, free of charge. The clinic also offers sanitary facilities, drinking water and basic medicines for 15,000 people from local and neighbouring villages.
The clinic is part of the NGO Health&Help, set up by the Russian infectious disease doctor Victoria Velikova and artist and activist Karina Basharova. Working with Martlet Architects, they have also built a red-cross shaped clinic in Nicaragua, opened in March 2020.