J. Manuel Mansylla




1978 -

Building on this experience I was driven to found my own firm even before I graduated.  Next, I was invited to become faculty at my university even before I was technically an architect. For the next three and a half years I led the most entrepreneurial architecture firm in Guatemala and got to work with various city agencies including City Planning and Landmarks Committee.

My work began to be featured in design and architecture magazines, television and newspapers. 

In 2004, I was named one the three most promising architects under age 40. In 2005 I got an honorary distinction in the first architecture Biennale.    


After four years of operation I decided to put reActivar on hold; I felt I needed to understand what the long term implications of my work were, and it seemed that a higher degree of education would provide that.

It would also help me figure out where to go next.

I attended the Urban Design Masters Program at Columbia University where I was faced whit a global perspective. The increasing need for sustainable lifestyles, sprung from current environmental challenges, is something that really opened my eyes. I realized that design per se was the main culprit, and yet I felt it could also serve as part of the solution.

I have always been fond of transformation. Ever since I was a little kid I used to enjoy making things out of stuff nobody else wanted. The concept of waste never appealed to me, so when I was first presented with the principles of recycling I felt relieved; still in my mind recycling needed to become a modus vivendi rather than just a modus opperandi. As I got older I began to realize that I had a particular ability to transform things, people would bring their old unwanted stuff: clothing, furniture, art, and I would transform it for them.

When I first started architecture school I did not find a direct link to this particular talent of mine until I was presented with a real scenario: the first revitalization project on Guatemala City’s center.  My studio class was invited to offer design suggestions and at the time I felt that my ability to transform could be used as a catalyst for the project’s success.

Without even knowing it I was at the turning point of my career; I linked both my thesis and culmination projects to the city’s plan and was awarded for both.

Higher E:


1997 - 2003

2002 - 2006

2007 - 2009

As soon as I graduated my wife and I set out to create a design studio that would link artisan communities with a global network of collaborating designers in order to create sustainable business models.

Parallel to this was the launch of a global network of individuals and organizations devoted to find experimental solutions for plastic pollution in the environment; turning a variety of interest groups into a community of change. 


  1. My art work is defined by open-endedness; design-proposals meant to challenge contemporary lifestyles which stand in the way of sustainability.

  1. The reActivar studio is defined as a grassroots-multi-disciplinary group comprised of architects, engineers, designers, artisans, artists and more...

  1. Founded in 2008, la Fantástica began as an online platform that would allow artisan communities in developing countries to connect with the outside world.

  1. A New York based open-source-do-tank devoted to promote design oriented solutions for plastic pollution and help raise awareness on the long-term implications of single-use-plastic-over-consumption.

plastic catch