Building ‘Half of a Good House’ in South America
Providing social housing with an innovative solution
Since the 1970’s, migration to urban centres has been a huge problem throughout South America and has led to the construction of Brazil’s favelas, Argentina’s villas and the pueblos jóvenes seen in Peru. This extensive migration and the unprecedented number of people moving into urban centres, led to people grabbing land where they could and constructing quick temporary structures to allow them to gain land titles on unstable terrain. These badly constructed houses left the residents susceptible to illnesses and infections from the poor living conditions and other structural dangers due to the unstable nature of their homes.
In more recent years, there have been many housing projects developed across South America that attempt to deal with the growing issue of social housing in the slums. Alejandro Aravena is a Chilean architect who in 2016 was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize for a social housing project he developed in Iquique, Chile. The Pritzker is the architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize and is generally awarded for design ingenuity and projects that are considered to be ‘momentous’ works.
Aravena’s project ‘half of a good house’ was developed after issues of migration and centralisation had arisen in Chile due to sudden dramatic urbanisation. The idea behind the project was Aravena challenging the thought that the $7,500/unit of public money received to improve the living situation of many impoverished Chileans could either be used to build many low quality houses or a few high quality houses. Aravena instead presented the idea of creating a secure, sturdy structure which could then be expanded on relatively cheaply by families in the future when the time came – essentially, half a good house. These houses begin with an initial area of 57 m2 and can grow up to 85 m2.
Aravena’s project has proven very successful in Chile with more than 2,500 units having been constructed since 2004. His approach to the issue of social housing has been adopted by many other organisations working in this field in South America.
Aravena “gives economic opportunity to the less privileged, mitigates the effects of natural disasters, reduces energy consumption, and provides welcoming public space,” said Tom Pritzker, chairman and president of the prize’s sponsors, the Hyatt Foundation. “Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives.”
Ian Bridge | March 2017