Interested in Public-Interest Design? Apply to the Enterprise Rose Fellowship By July 10

A Rose Fellow working on a design project. Image Courtesy of Enterprise Partners

Shelter is a basic human need, but over 11 million families cannot afford a safe and stable place to live. In a crusade to change this sad fact, the Enterprise Rose Fellowship gives socially-minded architects the tools they need to pursue careers in and community development. For more on the learning opportunity, head over to Next City and click here.

Justin McGuirk’s Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture

’s houses in Quinta Monroy, Iquique. © Cristóbal Palma

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving: “after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.” The following is an excerpt from Radical Cities on PREVI – the great, but all-but-forgotten experimental housing project in that counted James Stirling and Aldo van Eyck among its contributors.

In a northern suburb of Lima is a housing estate that might have changed the face of cities in the developing world. Its residents go about their lives feeling lucky that they live where they do, but oblivious to the fact that they occupy the last great experiment in social housing. If you drove past it today, you might not even notice it. And yet the Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda – PREVI for short – has a radical pedigree. Some of the best architects of the day slaved over it. Now it is largely forgotten.

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.

UN-Habitat Announces Winners of Mass Housing Competition

The entry by Team Render for Homs, Syria. Image Courtesy of Render (Marwa Al-Sabouni & Khaled Komee)

A universal problem facing worldwide today is mass social housing. This issue manifests differently in different places: in some cases, housing built on modernist principles has proven unsustainable and socially problematic; in others, the challenge is to replace informal construction with safe, universal housing schemes — without repeating the mistakes of modernism.

To address these issues, UN Habitat launched a student competition in September to provide designs for local, specific solutions for cities around the globe. We’ve collected the winners in the overall competition, as well as some of our favorites from the 6 regional and 38 national winners, after the break.

A Colorful Demolition: The Abandoned Interiors of Ghent’s Rabot Towers Revealed

© Pieter Lozie

In the 70s, towers were seen as the ideal solution for low-cost social housing. In the following decades, however, many of these towers became occupied by single people and the elderly rather than the young, low income families they were initially designed for. Today, though there may be many potential solutions, the most drastic solution is often pursued: knock them down and start again.

A great example is the Rabot towers in GhentBelgium. In the past, these three towers accommodated about 840 residents, but the quality and safety standards in the towers are no longer suitable for living. For example, one of the buildings has only one entrance hall and lift for 190 apartments over 17 floors. Since a total renovation and refurbishment of the towers would have been too costly, in 2009 the city and a company decided to demolish the three towers and replace them with 400 new apartments in a low-density masterplan. The demolition of the first tower is now in progress. With the removal of the facade panels we get to see behind the building’s public face, revealing the many living room interiors, where the bright walls are framed by the tight rhythm of the window frames, almost like an abstract artwork. 

See more images of this “abstract artwork” after the break…

Round-Up: 5 Striking Examples of Social Housing

Hatert Housing by 24H Architecture. Image © 24H architecture

For many people, there is an unfortunate stigma attached to social housing. Fortunately, some countries have realized that one of the best ways to combat this stigma is through good design, leading to some striking and unusual social housing blocks in countries such as Spain, France, Slovenia and Belgium. This article on the blog Best MSW Programs has a list of the top 30 social housing blocks worldwide, but here on ArchDaily we’ve collected 5 of our favorites: Elemental‘s Monterrey Housing, the Tetris Apartments by OFIS Architekti, Savonnerie Heymans by MDW Architecture, 24H Architecture‘s Hatert Housing and KOZ Architectes‘ Tête en l’air. You can also see the top 30 list here.

ELEMENTAL’s “Half-Finished” Housing Typology: A Success in All Circumstances

Courtesy of

Since they first developed the typology for their Quinta Monroy project in Iquique, Chile, the “half-finished home” has become something of a signature for ELEMENTAL: they have used the technique in multiple cities in Chile, as well as their Monterrey Housing project in Mexico. The typology began life as a way of dealing with extremely low budgets, allowing governments to provide to citizens at incredibly low prices, but nevertheless creating homes that would provide for the needs of residents and even gain value over time. Now, they have applied the theory to their Villa Verde Housing project, published just last week on ArchDaily.

Read more about the typology, and how it has been applied at Villa Verde, after the break…

Winners of the World Habitat Awards Announced

The 2013 will be held in Medellin, Colombia. Image © Flickr / David Peña

The winners of the 2013 World Habitat Awards, a competition focused on addressing needs and issues across the globe, have just been announced. Picked from a pool of over 200 applicants, the two winning entries represent the most innovative and resilient proposals with potential for global use, taking on the rampant homelessness problem in the US (The 100,000 Homes Campaign) and exploring revitalisation opportunities for the Old City in Hebron (Hebron Old City Rehabilitation Programme). The winners will be honoured at a ceremony in Medellin, Colombia on October 17, 2014. To learn more about the competition and it’s winners, click here

Non-Design: Architecture’s (Counter-Intuitive) Future

Quinta Monroy development after occupation. © Cristobal Palma

Global architecture underwent a seismic shift in the 20th Century. Governments, keen to mitigate the impoverishing effects of rapid urbanization and two world wars embarked on ambitious programs, pairing with modernists who promised that design could be the solution to social inequality and poverty. Today, the problems inherent in these mid-century tower blocks are well documented and well known, and these modernist solutions to poverty are often seen as ill-conceived failures.

If the 20th century was all about designing to solve social problems, then the 21st century has been about the exact opposite – not designing to solve social problems. These days, it is much more common to see architects praising the social order and even aesthetic of illegal slums, which in many cases provide their residents with a stronger and higher quality of life than did many formal social housing projects of the past. The task of architects (both today’s and tomorrow’s) is to develop this construction logic: to use design and, rather counter-intuitively, non-design to lift these urban residents out of their impoverished conditions.

More on the social potential of non-design after the break…

AD Classics: Balfron Tower / Erno Goldfinger

© Flickr / _gee_

The Balfron Tower by architect Erno Goldfinger is an iconic Brutalist residential high rise located in ’s eastside Poplar borough. Designed in 1963 for the County Council and completed in 1967 by the Greater Council, this social housing estate broke the traditions of typical residential architecture. Conceived as a solution to sprawling suburbia, Goldfinger embraced verticality as the cure. More details after the break.

Incremental Housing Strategy in India / Filipe Balestra & Sara Göransson

Aerial collage: the new archipelago of incremented kaccha houses rising from a context of well built permanent homes in a typical slum.

The problem with social has been how to give the most with less money. We have very good examples in Europe, but the constrains are way different than the ones in developing countries. In these countries, almost all the constructions are done by anyone but architects. Clearly, in these countries architects can do something way better than just designing or constructing, developing strategies together with communities to achieve solutions that not only address today´s necessities, but that can also be extended over time as families grow, once again by themselves and without architects.

A good example on this is Elemental, lead by Alejandro Aravena, which has been changing not only design aspects of , but also public policy. Currently, they have built and on going projects in Chile, Mexico and more countries.

But also, there´s the work that Filipe Balestra and Sara Göransson have been doing in India, invited by  Sheela Patel and Jockin Arputham from SPARC to develop an Incremental Housing Strategy that could be implemented anywhere.

Louis Blanc Social Housing / ECDM

Architects: Emmanuel Combarel Dominique Marrec
Location: Paris, France
Project Manager: Dario Oeschli
Project year: 2004-2006
Client: RIVP (Régie Immobilière de la Ville de Paris)
Engineering: BETIBA
General Contractor: LES MAÇONS PARISIENS
Site Area: 550 sqm
Constructed Area: 1,537 sqm
Photographs: Benoit Fougeirol

Collage Paris / ECDM

Architects: Emmanuel Combarel Dominique Marrec
Location: Paris, France
Project Manager: Louis-Antoine  Grego – Matthieu Roggwiller
Project year: 2005-2008
Client: PARIS HABITAT
Engineering: BETOM – TECSOL
Economy: Michel Larsonneur
Structural Engineering: Eng.Lopes de Oliveira
Site Area: 2,026 sqm
Constructed Area: 9,183 sqm
Photographs: Benoit Fougeirol – Philippe Ruault

Quinta Monroy / ELEMENTAL

Architects: Elemental – Alejandro Aravena, Alfonso Montero, Tomás Cortese, Emilio de la Cerda
Location: Iquique, .
Client: Gobierno regional de Tarapacá / Programa Chile-Barrio del Gobierno de Chile.
Engineering: Juan Carlos de la Llera & José Gajardo.
Contractor and Services: Proingel, Abraham Guerra, Constructora Loga S.A.
Budget: US $204 /sqm
Project Year: 2003
Construction Year: 2004
Execution time: 9 months
Materials: Concrete & Cement bricks
Site Area: 5000 sqm
Constructed Area: 3500 sqm
Photographs: ElementalCristóbal Palma – Tadeuz Jalocha

Social Housing in Granollers / Bailo Rull ADD+ Arquitectura

Architects: ADD+ Arquitectura – Manuel Bailo Esteve, Rosa Rull Bertran
Location: Granollers,
Collaborators: A.Brito, A. Estevez, N.Font, M.Hita, P.Jenni, A. Mañosa, J. Maroto, J.Palà, A. Rovira, M.Rull, L.Troost
Contractor: DENTELL S.L.
Client: GRANOLLERS PROMOCIONS S.A.
Structure: Martí Cabestany
Services: Victor Barnés
Project year: 2004
Photographs: José Hevia