Soup Kitchen and Community Centre - Cordoba

El Polito

The Situation

Barrio Zepa is located in the North East of the city of Córdoba. This neighbourhood arose through a housing plan promoted by the government of the Province of Córdoba in 2001 to relocate 237 families who were removed from the coast of the Suquía River in order to move forward with the extension of the waterfront avenue.  


The residents of Zepa B jointly operate the soup kitchen "Comedor Polito", where around 100 children gather daily. In this space, dinners are provided on some days, and other days snacks are offered and school support and craft workshops are given. Elderly people who are unable to access the soup kitchen have food delivered to their homes.                          


There is an urgent need to improve the dining room facilities. The small space that exists today consists of concrete blocks without plastering or carpentry. There are no toilets or drinking water for the activities that take place there. In addition, the activities are limited by climatic conditions. In extreme temperatures or on rainy days, the kitchen is closed since food preparation is currently carried out outdoors.                                                                    

The Project

Based on a series of meetings that took place between Engineering Without Borders volunteers and the community of Zepa B, the following project objectives were identified:


  • Extend the community center "El Polito" through the improvement of the existing facilities, and the construction of a core of basic services consisting of a kitchen and bathrooms, and an exclusive room for the academic support with a library.                                          

  • Encourage the community participation of neighbours, especially children in the neighbourhood, through participatory design strategies.                                                           

  • Sensitize the community about the responsible use of shared spaces and the care of the environment, developing community management strategies oriented to the sustainability of the spaces over time.                                                                                                   

  • Generate concrete participation opportunities for university students that allow them to get involved in local social issues through professional practices.

The existing structure will be refurbished and extended to include a core of basic services, consisting of a kitchen, bathrooms and a library with dedicated spaces for academic support activities. In total, the construction will add an additional 60 m2 of covered and 19m2 of semi-covered area to the facility.  The project scope also includes includes the refurbishment and improvement of the existing multi-purpose hall, and the adjacent plaza.

The design utilises a reinforced concrete column-beam load bearing system, with brick in-fill. A soil study conducted prior to project commencement revealed the presence of high plasticity clay. Due to the highly active nature of the soil and the associated risk of expansion, uneven settlement and superstructure distortion, soil replacement was undertaken to a depth of 1.2m.

Our Involvement

HEIP Teams have contributed over 3200 personnel hours to this project. In December 2017 and January 2018, teams broke ground on the project, completing the geotechnical works and foundations. In July 2018, another team continued on the concrete beams and columns, as well as brick infill.  This involved substantial cutting and tying of the steel reinforcement, preparation of formwork, mixing and pouring the concrete columns and bricklaying.