Architecture Program


Date of this Version

May 2007

Document Type



M.Arch Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, May 2007


“Rancho Siloe’,” as called by the missionaries of New Tribes Mission-Mexico, is a missionary training school named for its place, Siloe’: a 19 acre piece of ranch land North of Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Still in its infancy with only 15 students, the current school is a composition of need based additions created over the time of its existence. Its future student population and rate of growth are unknown.

As a non-profit Christian mission organization, NTM-Mexico relies on donations and voluntary labor to sustain Rancho Siloe’s construction. Some of these volunteers bring with them professional experience, while others are often young and simply desire to assist the mission doing simple tasks.

Material availability in the area is constantly changing. Chihuahua’s proximity to a U.S. border makes importation of select materials an option, but often the cost at customs makes the option unfeasible.

Because of these numerous and unpredictable aspects that define Rancho Siloe’, this design problem explores an additive technique to development using a bottom-up approach, favoring the design of a growth process to the facility’s overall form and extent.

In his book, Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, Alan Riding writes that in Mexico, “[t]he future is viewed with fatalism, and as a result, the idea of planning seems unnatural.” Prepared and even expecting the worst, a Mexican exists with a seemingly inherent ability to improvise.

Similarly, survival as a missionary demands this same ability. Planning life in an unfamiliar culture is unpredictable simply because the culture is foreign. Christian missionaries must improvise when the unexpected happens.

There is one primary difference that separates the two. Fatalists believe the future can’t be stopped. Christians believe that God is in control of the future.

Rancho Siloe’ releases the need for master-planned control to a series of local rules, establishing the conditions within which structures are to be created. These “field conditions,” as Stan Allen refers to them in his book Points + Lines, allow chance and contingency the opportunity to inform the uniqueness of each building. Improvisation will find possibility where unexpected adjacencies, orientations, and programmatic shifts can result from the combination of repetitive and regular elements. Then, the very nature of Rancho Siloe’ will facilitate incremental growth, imploring a developmental process that is inherently expandable.

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