Minha Casa, Nossa Cidade: Brazil’s Social Housing Policy & The Failures of the Private-Public System

Courtesy of Ruby Press

In 2009, the Brazilian government launched the social program “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (“My House, My Life”), which aims to build 3.4 million units by the end of 2014. Minha Casa—Nossa Cidade (Ruby Press, 2014), produced by the MAS Urban Design program at the ETH Zurich, examines the project at a critical time and presents ways to improve its design and implementation. Divided into three chapters, the book reviews the history, guidelines, and construction of the “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” program (MCMV) through long-form essays, opinion pieces, interviews, diagrams, and photographic image material. The following excerpt, written by Sandra Becker, proposes an answer to the question of why the program – despite its aims to meet the huge demand for housing for low-income families - has thus far failed to provide the Brazilian people the “quality cities [they] desire.” 

From the Publisher. In June 2013, saw a wave of protests unprecedented in the country’s history. Millions of people filled the streets demanding better education, public transportation, and healthcare. While the rage driving the protests was directed at politicians, it is unlikely that the problem can be reduced to the failure of the political system. Instead, shouldn’t the protests point out the inequalities caused by the neoliberal policies that dominate the global economy?

In the first quarter of 2009, responding to the global financial crisis that had begun the previous year, the Brazilian government launched an ambitious social housing program to encourage the economy’s construction sector. The program, “Minha Casa, Minha Vida,” was initially developed to build one million houses. In September 2011, the program launched its second phase with a goal of providing another 2.4 million housing units. The program aims to confront a historical deficiency in housing, a shortage of approximately 5.8 million dwellings.

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A Manifesto For Icons and Architecture Infatuated By Form

The following is an excerpt from WAI Architecture Think Tank‘s book Pure Hardcore Icons. This manifesto explores architecture’s recurrent obsession with pure geometric form. Pure Hardcore Icons aims to raise awareness about the dialectic of pure form and architecture, hoping that its potential and limitations could be fully grasped either in practice, in the academia, or as a cultural and intellectual exercise. 

Never before has the combination of technology and mass media enhanced such a prolific production and diffusion of monuments to “signature” architecture. Design school desks, computer screens, and magazine pages around the globe have been flooded with torrents of buildings in pure shapes. Redundant forms —either as poured concrete or as virtual bytes— pop-up with the speed it takes to wire-cut Styrofoam or master 3d modeling software. Paradoxically, this abrupt surge of iconographic architectural paraphernalia has overshadowed the demise of the manifesto, one of architecture’s most powerful and straightforward tools to declare its intentions.

Ever since Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) was hailed as the last great architectural narrative, architectural theory has been unsuccessfully trying to rationalize the often similar icons either as the by-products of the unpredictability of the contemporary city or as the result of suspiciously momentary (and opportunistic) trends that oscillate from the so-called green design to the supposed technology-aided revolution of parametricism. [1]

But, are vague explanations of conditions external to architecture enough to elucidate the formal similarities between so many iconic buildings? Are the CCTV tower and the Max Reinhardt Haus similar just by coincidence? Or, is there an underlying relationship between Foster and Partners’ Palace of Peace and Reconciliation , Buckminster Fuller’s Tetrahedron City and Giza’s Pyramids? How to explain the disappearance of any attempt to give theoretical coherence to these buildings, at the moment when formal consistence seems to suggest the possibility of a new architectural ontology? What about understanding architecture’s concealed plot about form?

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A+U 523: Juliaan Lampens

From the publisher. April 2014 issue of A+U is a monograph of Belgium architect .

Featured works include: House Juliaan Lampens – Van Hove, House Vandenhaute – Kiebooms, and Kerselare Chapel. A+U visited Lampens in Eke, not far from Ghent, last year to interview him. Two essays, one by his former staff and the other by architecture researchers, depict the architect who, throughout his career, often avoided press exposer.

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A Seductive Abstraction: Architecture & Photography’s Tacit Pact

Courtesy of The Architectural Review

ArchDaily has partnered with The Architectural Review to bring you short thematic introductions to the magazine’s monthly editions.  Up now: AR’s April 2014 issue, which examines the complexities of architecture . Editor Catherine Slessor asks “what happens when controlled views of buildings are redefined by and adapted to new technologies?”

Roland Barthes once observed that there is no such thing as a photograph. ‘Whatever it grants to vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible, it is not it that we see’, he wrote in Camera Lucida. What we do see is the scrutinising gaze of the photographer, which can beguile or unsettle, but should always evoke some kind of response.

As a scientific and ‘truthful’ medium, photography has served architecture well, especially in the Modernist era when the evolving medium synthesised perfectly with a new approach to design. Yet the relationship between architecture and photography is an inherently compromised one. Unlike art practice, architectural photography lends itself less to searching critical enquiry, being essentially an unspoken pact between architect, photographer and publisher to render buildings in a way that discreetly flatters architectural ambition and sells copies of books or magazines.

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Christoph Gielen’s “Ciphers”: Aerial Views of American Sprawl

Courtesy of Jovis Verlag

From the Publisher. Christoph Gielen’s aerial views offer a look at America’s most aberrant and unusual forms in ways we usually don’t get to see them: from far above the ground—a vantage point that reveals both the intricate geometry as well as the idiosyncratic allure of these developments. Here, encountering becomes an aesthetic experience that at the same time leaves us with a sense of foreboding, of seeing the “writing on the wall”. At once fascinating and profoundly unsettling, these photographs detail the potential ramifications of unchecked urbanization. When these settlements were developed, neither distance from work place nor gasoline prices much mattered in determining the locations of new constructions. These places are relics from an era that was entirely defined by a belief in unlimited growth, of bigger is better. The startling extent of those practices, and their inherent wastefulness, come to light in Gielen’s pictures—as if looking at a microcosm of non-sustainability through a giant magnifier.

Contributing essays by Johann Frederik Hartle, Galina Tachieva, Srdjan Jovanic Weiss, Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris contextualize Gielen’s work by focusing on a range of aspects, from aesthetics to climate change and futurology. They also examine why taking a closer look at these places is particularly crucial at this juncture, when we are faced with a new wave of building booms in developing nations such as in China.

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The Air from Other Planets, A Brief History of Architecture

Courtesy of Lars Müller Publishers

The following is an excerpt from Sean Lally’s The Air from Other Planets, A Brief History of Architecture to Come. The book introduces the reader to an architecture produced by designing the energy within our environment (electromagnetic, thermodynamic, acoustic, and chemical)– an architecture that exchanges walls and shells for a range of material energies that develop its own shapes, aesthetics, organizational systems, and social experiences. Energy becomes its own enterprise for design innovation; it becomes the architecture itself.

One of architecture’s primary acts is to define the spatial boundaries that organize and hold specified activities within them. The behavioral properties of the materials used to make that boundary not only influence the physical characteristics of that space (maximum height, span, aperture sizes), but also determine how the human body perceives and senses those boundary changes (opacity, transparency, acoustics), which then informs the behaviors and movements of the individuals using the space.  This definition of boundaries is one that architects have continually tested and subverted as new materials, construction methods, and social trends have emerged over the centuries.  It follows that if energy could be controlled and deployed as physical boundaries that define and organize spaces that the human body can detect and recognize, wouldn’t that be architecture? These new building materials would only need to demonstrate that they could absorb the “responsibilities” of boundaries—able to determine spatial hierarchies, provide security, hold aesthetic value, etc.—for them to be called architecture. Current trends just on the periphery of the discipline that could make this a possibility only need to be integrated through the lens of the architect to see their potential.

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The Architectural Review’s Latest Issue: Architecture and Our War-Torn Cities

Courtesy of

ArchDaily is happy to announce a new development in our partnership with The Architectural Review. Each month, AR’s editor, Catherine Slessor, will weigh in with a thematic introduction to the subjects addressed in their current issue. Up now: war and architecture. While our war-torn cities can be rebuilt, their fraught social linkages will never be the same.

At the height of the Cold War, the US developed the neutron bomb, an extreme and more ‘advanced’ type of nuclear weapon that could kill people but theoretically leave buildings intact. Described by both the Russians and Americans as the ‘capitalist bomb’, it was eventually sidelined but became emblematic of the crazed Dr Strangelove ingenuity that underscored the time.

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A+U 522: Supermodels – Photographed by Hisao Suzuki

From the publisher. March 2014 issue of a+u is focused on photographs of architectural by Spain-based photographer Hisao Suzuki.

Based on the essence of architects’ thinking expressed in the images, 70 photographs of models by 25 architects are categorized into “Inception”, “Organization”, “Blooming” and “Experiential”. We also asked six architects – Arata Isozaki, Christian Kerez, Ryue Nishizawa, Kazuyo Sejima, Fabian Asunción (former architect at EMBT), Bijoy Jain – to talk about what models mean to their ways of creating architecture. Each photo is accompanied by photographer’s story from the photo shoot.

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Unpublished / CLOG

Courtesy of

Each edition of CLOG poses a particular challenge to the reader: by showcasing such a variety of distinct view points, teasing out the central, connective themes is far from an easy task. It requires analysis, thought, and most of all time – which is, of course, entirely the point. CLOG seeks to “slow things down” so that the greater issues of architectural discourse are mulled over and explored.

The latest CLOG, however, Unpublished, has two central points that quickly, easily emerge. Pick up CLOG: Unpublished if you want to learn two things: (1) about how and why certain choose the architecture they publish (ArchDaily included); or (2) about works that have, for their geographical location or problematic nature, been forgotten from the “idealized narratives” of architecture

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Architectural Review’s Latest Issue: “Is This The End of Public Space?”

Courtesy of

ArchDaily is happy to announce a new development in our partnership with The Architectural Review. Each month, AR’s editor, Catherine Slessor, will weigh in with a thematic introduction to the subjects addressed in their current issue. Up now: public space. Is it on the brink of extinction? And, if so, how can we reclaim it?

Just over 20 years ago, Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin predicted the end of public space as we knew it. ‘America’s cities are being rapidly transformed by a sinister and homogeneous design’, they wrote at the time. ‘A new kind of urbanism – manipulative, dispersed, and hostile to traditional public space – is emerging both at the heart and at the edge of town in megamalls, corporate enclaves, gentrified zones, and pseudo-historic marketplaces.It marked the beginning of the realisation that public space was being stealthily privatised and commodified; the historic freedoms of the agora and the piazza replaced by the patrolled and proscribed confine of the theme park and shopping mall.

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The Unpublishables: Showcasing Writing From Young Architects & Designers

Issue 2. Image Courtesy of The Unpublishables

The Unpublishables, an independent architectural fanzine based in the , seeks to offer a platform for young architects – as well as designers and makers – to publish their own writing. About to launch their second edition, the has provided an outlet for ideas of young people who have the commitment and vision to develop their own design philosophies, polemics and research outside of full-time education or employment.

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A+U 521: Revitalization of Modernization Heritage

From the publisher. The development of industry and culture in the modern period has created architecture suited for the particular system. As the industry declines, followed by the population shift, the original purpose of these buildings has been lost. Instead of demolishing them and rebuilding from scratch, many have been renovated to serve as the bases for revitalizing the regions.

February 2014 issue of a+u introduces 10 works that take advantage of the architectural system derived from their original function and are enabled to assume new roles in the society.

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JA92: World Yearbook 2013

JA92 takes a retrospective glance at the architecture of 2013. 49 works were chosen from cities around the world including Japan with the focus on architecture’s relationship with environment and cultural background.

Also included are essays by Hitoshi Abe, Anton Garcia-Abril and TYIN.

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A+U 520: Architecture in Spain and Portugal

From the publisher. In the past three year, the January issue of A+U has focused on 100 works of architecture built in a certain country since 2000 From those selected works , we have witnessed the country’s as well as the era’s distinctive traits. Following Switzerland and Germany, this year we are featuring Spain and .

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OASE #91: “Building Atmosphere” With Peter Zumthor and Juhani Pallasmaa

Courtesy of OASE

In OASE’s 91st editionBuilding Atmospheres, the elusive craft of creating, capturing and understanding ‘atmosphere’ in architecture is explored in a carefully chosen collection of themed essays by Peter ZumthorJuhani Pallasmaa and philosopher Gernot Böhme. Zumthor, famous for his 1996 text Atmospheres, identifies and discusses “a series of themes that play a role in his work in achieving architectonic atmosphere”. Alongside this, the OASE team have visited his studio and interviewed him about the current relevance of his writing and how he captures ‘atmosphere’ in his design process. 

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Open Letters / Harvard Graduate School of Design

Courtesy of Open Letters

Launched in September 2013 by students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Open Letters is a print experiment that tests the epistolary form as a device for generating conversations about architecture and design. The project stems from an earnest curiosity about what people have to say to each other about architecture, landscapes, cities, ideas, history, practice, experience and learning. 

New issues are released every other Friday, each presenting one open letter, i.e. a letter addressed to a particular party, but intended for publication, about any topic relating to the design disciplines. Past correspondents have written to mentors, chairs, trees, mystical creatures, those in need of advice and to NCARB. All issues can be read online.

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JA91: Models are Real

From the Publisher. JA91 is a special issue devoted to the architectural model. Today, with the advance of simulation technology, architects possess wide -ranging tools for verifying and communicating their ideas, tools that are, moreover, easy to use. Still, many architects continue even now to construct in various phases of the process from concept design to realization.

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A+U 518: Norwegian Architecture Toward Sustainability

The latest issue of one of our favorite magazines, A+U, has just arrived to the ArchDaily office from Japan. This issue’s main theme is “Norwegian Architecture Toward Sustainability,” in which you can find projects previously featured by AD, like the amazing Trollstigen National Tourist Route by Reiulf Ramstad Architects, Rintala Eggertsson’s Seljord Watchtower and Høse BridgeJektvik Ferry Quay by Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk, Helen & Hard’s Vennesla Library and Culture House, the Statoil Regional and International Offices by a-lab and many more. Full info + content after the break.

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