Towards an Architecture of Open and Flexible Systems / Emilio Marin

© Courtesy of Emilio Marin

The current need for housing in Chile after the earthquake is a unique opportunity to re-think architecture. It has generated an exceptional scenario that demands for new proposals and solutions.

Architecture usually responds to definite problems with specific, unique and unrepeatable responses. Projects are configured as rigid and closed systems that can hardly be replicated with success anywhere else. At the same time, these architectonic solutions are linked with an ‘elite’, they are luxurious commodities that are specific-individual-crafted, normally at a very high cost.

After the break you can see Emilio Marin’s proposal regarding this issue, including diagrams, renders and the complete text description.

Is it possible to imagine an architecture that is configured as a flexible and open system? Can we think in terms of fluid systems as opposed to specific objects? Is it possible to conceive an architecture capable of adapting itself to different needs, either programmatic, functional, contextual, constructive, emotional, or in terms of budget? Can we consider an architecture that is, at the same time, specific, massive and industrial? Can architecture develop the notion of massive personalization? In short, is it possible to change the paradigm and design housing departing from qualitative variables to transform them into quantitative variables, thus abandoning the traditional practice where quantitative factors are the ones that determine architecture and its low quality?

© Courtesy of Emilio Marin


To address this architectural problem, we have established a base housing unit denominated ‘typical construction’ or ‘x’ House, of 6 by 6 meters.

Considering that the spatial quality of this ‘typical construction’ is insufficient, the proposal keeps the same amount of squared meters in plan, but stretches the roof in order to obtain more cubic meters, thus, better spatial quality. This addition of cubic meters should not affect cost significantly.

The new volume incorporates the possibility of grouping, repetition and variation at the same time, allowing for the development of a system that we can denominate “massive personalization”, where each unit or configuration can be equal and different at the same time.

© Courtesy of Emilio Marin
© Courtesy of Emilio Marin

Likewise, the system permits for an adaptability at different scales, sizes, programs and materiality, thus configuring an open and flexible system that can eventually adapt itself to different uses without losing the constructive and architectural qualities of the original unit. For example, the same constructive detail and spatial quality can be maintained throughout different configurations, programs and sizes.

© Courtesy of Emilio Marin

Similarly, the unit can be thought of as a house or as a collection of houses. Or, the unit can be used for a public program, as a social venue, with different terminations but maintaining the spatial qualities of the system.

© Courtesy of Emilio Marin

The constructive system can be industrial, although personalizing the components of the architectural solution at the same time, and always keeping in mind the exogenous factors that determine the project. This way, the project can adapt to the type of program required, or to the user that will inhabit it, without letting this personalization alter the spatial quality.


© Courtesy of Emilio Marin
© Courtesy of Emilio Marin

We propose to re-think architecture. To build like we used to is equivalent to a new earthquake.

We suggest searching for new answers, abandoning the practice of generating unique and unrepeatable solutions that yield rigid and closed systems.

We intend to explore architectonic alternatives to create flexible and open systems, which can be scaled and repeated, and can allow for the massive personalization of each individual or group of houses.

We believe that qualitative values in architectonic solutions like spatial quality, quality of life, space and cubic meters cannot be reserved only for the elites, but that they must also be present in the housing that Chile needs now.

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Cite: Nico Saieh. "Towards an Architecture of Open and Flexible Systems / Emilio Marin" 23 Aug 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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