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Fideicomiso: When Architects Become Developers (And Everybody Wins)

A decade before Kickstarter made "crowdfunding" a buzzword (particularly in architecture circles), a similar concept - going by a far more poetic name - was already alive and well in the streets of Buenos Aires. 

Fideicomiso is a system of development which gained popularity in Argentina after the financial crisis of 2001; banks crashed, the public grew wary of developers, and a more democratic system of development gained prevalence. Under fideicomiso, the architect himself takes on the risk of development; residents collect their assets and provide them to the architect, who buys the land, funds the project and oversees the design/construction.

Now, Elias Redstone, a researcher who took part in Venice Takeaway (Britain's Pavilion at last year's Venice Biennale) and spent time investigating this model in Argentina, has returned to his home country - and is anxious to see if this system could be applied in Recession-struck Britain. 

Read more about this revolutionary model of development, after the break...

Fideicomiso: An architectural adventure in Argentina / Elias Redstone/Marcia Mihotich/British Council – Courtesy of the British Council
Fideicomiso: An architectural adventure in Argentina / Elias Redstone/Marcia Mihotich/British Council – Courtesy of the British Council

On the Venice Takeaway web site, Redstone states: "With the deepening financial crisis in Europe, it feels like now is the right time to explore an alternative approach to homebuilding that provides a model for architects and homebuyers to work together. I am interested in whether such a model might allow architects in the UK to take the lead in developing their own projects, and whether it can in turn improve the quality of residential architecture."

Fideicomiso essentially puts the architect in far more control (both in practical and creative terms) of a project than depending on a corporate developer would allow; of course, it also puts him/her in an identifiable position of responsibility, forcing far more communication with the residents who will both fund and then occupy the resulting development. 

Rendering of BD Bacata, Image via Wikimedia CC User Sbgaga28
Rendering of BD Bacata, Image via Wikimedia CC User Sbgaga28

Like other crowdfunding schemes, such as BD Bacatá, the world's first crowdfunded skyscraper, participation of the users is key: residents receive greater returns depending on how early they enter into the process (and thus how much risk they incur). Moreover, in the end, residents have more say in the resulting design and pay about 20-30% less than they would buying on the open market.   

It's thus no wonder the model has become so popular. Reporting for The Guardian, Oliver Wainwright notes that the scheme has also had success revitalizing the city: "Across Buenos Aires on leftover plots in traditionally low value areas, these self-built blocks, usually of around eight apartments, have become a common sight. The cumulative effect of these interventions has led to the revitalisation of neighbourhoods, such as Palermo, Caballito, Nuñez and Barrio Norte." The crowdfunded Luchtsingel bridge in Rotterdam similarly regenerated the city, providing a solution to a long-standing problem of inaccessibility for pedestrians (an issue the government had promised to tackle - but not for another thirty years). 

Luchtsingel, a crowdfunded bridge in Rotterdam. Image © Ossip van Duivebode
Luchtsingel, a crowdfunded bridge in Rotterdam. Image © Ossip van Duivebode

However, the question still remains whether architects could feasibly adopt this system worldwide. Redstone recently discussed the topic at the RIBA at an event titled "Fideicomiso! Putting Architecture at the Heart of Housing." Do you think this system could bring "architecture" back to housing? Could architects really learn to assume the role of developer? Could a system such as this encourage development at a time when most construction in the US and Europe has come to a stand-still? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Story via The Guardian 

Cite:Vanessa Quirk. "Fideicomiso: When Architects Become Developers (And Everybody Wins) " 25 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/364223/fideicomiso-when-architects-become-developers-and-everybody-wins/>