The students of the MSArch in Landscape and Urbanism program at Woodbury University in San Diego have shared this video on Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda (PREVI): a late 1960s social housing experiment in Lima, Peru, which, backed by the Peruvian government and the UN, involved the best social housing architects of the day.
The designs, part of the later, more humanist strain of modernism, were intended to allow families – who were used to holding complete control over the construction of their own homes – to appropriate the houses. However, they were also designed to imply how future construction might prevent the proliferation of chaos present in previous slums. The video asks how residents feel about their experimental homes today, questioning the success of this design strategy, 40 years after the project’s completion.
Find out more about the outcome of the PREVI experiment, after the break…
The video finds happy residents, praising the tranquility and safety of the neighborhood – almost unrecognizable from the original images, with bright colors and sometimes haphazard extensions. But the video also involves local architects, who do have criticisms: “for those who think in terms of architectural purism, it’s a failure because the way the types were thought to grow, doesn’t get applied,” says one. Another adds: “I think there’s an excess of willpower to express your identity, your individuality into a building… I think it’s legitimate, but there’s a limit.”
In an article for Domus, Justin McGuirk discusses PREVI and also notes the failure of the ‘guidelines’ for extension: “[Aldo van Eyck] took a more proscriptive approach to how the owners should expand, creating diagonally walled courtyards to discourage people building on top of them. He failed of course. Outdoor space is not sacred to a family of eight with another generation on the way.”
But McGuirk also sees PREVI as the prototype for many modern architects looking into social housing today. Urban Think Tank is one example, whom McGuirk worked with on their Golden-Lion-Winning project at the Venice Biennale in 2012. Another example is Chilean practice Elemental, particularly their ‘half a house‘ model for social housing. As the example of PREVI becomes ever more applicable in the current climate, the investigations of the students at Woodbury University becomes increasingly relevant.