The exercise, “from territory to inhabitant”, organized by the Centre of Investigation for Sustainable Development (CIDS) of Infonavit, seeks to respond to the diverse cultural, social, environmental, spatial and functional needs of different localities and bioclimates in finding assisted self-build housing solutions. The main objective of this investigation is to establish the legal, conceptual and architectonic processes that can be used to create these types of houses.
In their next project, CIDS invited the Mexican studio ZD+A to collaborate with Iñaki Echeverría to make a proposal for a social housing prototype for assisted self-build with the municipality of Tala in Jalisco, Mexico.
From the architects: For more than 30 years, Mexico has followed a model for social housing that prioritizes the construction of the largest number of houses for the lowest possible cost, leaving to one side the main objective of creating integrated communities or creating a city.
The city acts as the most important pillar in society in terms of innovation, development and economic growth. Its infrastructure facilitates basic services housing, education, public health, transport, and culture. It sets a standard that is almost impossible to reach in other contexts. This situation has caused a progressive migration to cities, which has seen uncontrolled growth, lacking consideration that the territory is a finite resource, and should be treated that way.
The challenge of integrating more and more people into the city has brought about the creation of models of social refuge, that lack fundamental factors for a development which integrates its inhabitants. Designed with the objective of minimising spending, these spaces are created in the city’s periphery, far from economic opportunities, with complicated access to even the most basic of services. These developments, based on a misunderstanding of the economy of these projects, have completely forgotten one of the essential elements necessary for generating a good quality of life, beauty. The architectonic design has been left out of the planning and design of these housing developments along with the consideration that a human acts differently in an environment they find attractive and satisfactory, an appealing physical context not only generates happiness but it also creates a connection between the people and their neighborhood.
The dynamics generated by the developments are deplorable. Long daily commutes to arrive at work or school without adequate public transport infrastructure affect school attendance and dropouts and puts a strain on family life with few hours spent together. Also, the lack of public space and leisure activities provoke delinquency and violence in the already vulnerable social fabric. Furthermore, the fact that quality of life is low coupled with high-interest rates that are paid on properties, results in the partial or total abandonment of houses, an absolute failing of the State housing system.
Housing is a right, and because of that, it is a responsibility of the State. The way we plan future developments of social interest will determine to a large degree the positive participation its inhabitants have on the community and towards a more solid sense of belonging. It is time that architecture returns to integrate the production of housing of social interest in Mexico. It should be the responsibility of the architect too, from the beginning of the design process, think about housing that embodies beauty, functionality and the makes the most resources (spatial, territorial, energetic) to generate cities, that ensure quality of life for all.
For this to happen, there needs to be a paradigm shift. Building social housing shouldn’t just be about simply putting a roof above thousands of people: that is just a refuge. The people need to be taken into consideration as artists of the city, shaping the accessibility of services, mobility, family life, green spaces, the creation of common spaces, the offer of cultural and leisure activities, elements which have generally been overlooked in the model that prioritises benefitting the banks and credits with a blind production of housing and settlements which are practically unlivable. Social housing needs to prioritize economic, social and cultural mobility that exists in cities, of which housing is a fundamental element.
Architecture and urbanism has a great challenge in front of it, creating cities. To do this, the city’s inhabitants need to be understood as not just people who live in determined places but rather as people with basic needs and the right to a certain quality of life, people that communicate, interact, walk and enjoy their environment. Understanding the importance that their environment has on psychological, anthropological, social and cultural factors is a good start to rethinking the model for social housing in Mexico, and getting rid of the limited vision of what life in the city means.
Project Name: INFONAVIT. Del Territorio al Habitante
Location: Tala, Jalisco, México
Project dates: Nov 2016 – Enero 2017
Construction Area: 49.1 squared metres - 73.5 squared metres
Project: Iñaki Echeverria Gutierrez – Yuri Zagorin Alazraki
Collaborators: José Carlos Pérez Albo, Carlos Hernando Luna Moreno, Edgar R. Benítez Rivera, Angel Saldierna, Fernando Ateaga, Erick Ley, Iván López, Jesús Medina.