Third World Architecture: Case Study II

February 26, 2010

Again in Design Like You Give a Damn I found myself another excellent case study to compliment the Emergency Tents. This one I had seen before both in class and mentioned in other places, but Design Like You Give a Damn gave me a more comprehensive look.

So, in 2002, the Chile-Barrio Program created a new plan to house low-income families who were living illegally in parts of Iquique, Chile. The Chile-Barrio Program is a branch of the Regional Government of Tarapaca that works to upgrade Chile’s illegal housing problems. They hired the interdisciplinary design team Taller de Chile, which is a great firm that is made of architects, engineers, contractors, and politicians from the Universidad Catolica de Chile. The project was named the Quinta Monroy Housing Project, and the team was given a budget of $7,500 per one family house (including the cost of land). The most important goal of Taller de Chile was to build houses that could easily be added to in the future by the residents. The group also focused on the site itself and making sure that the project could be replicated in the future by the government.

In designing permanent housing projects, it is important to understand the end user. A designer must know how to create a building that uses the budget in the most effective and efficient way to get the most for the client. Keeping this in mind, the team held numerous meetings with the residents to understand what the most important needs were; in most cases, it was the ability to build additions on each unit. So the team decided to build smaller units first that had built-in future-use, and would allow residents to easily add on later. In building the project smaller in the beginning, the $7,500 could be spent more efficiently on a house that could be expanded over time as the residents earned more money.

The solution to this problem was a technique of building alternating single-story and double story units that could be expanded vertically. This allowed the site to become denser without overcrowding each unit. Within just four months after the construction of these houses, families had already begun adding to their units. Also, by giving the residents the potential to build additions, the project becomes an investment to the family. As they build on, the family has the ability to rent out rooms and make a profit, or to house a larger family without having to buy a new house.

Beyond this one unique element to the project, Taller de Chile also made sure to utilize a number of intelligent design practices that improved the quality of the project. Space was given for parking, roads, and walkways throughout the site, allowing for quick and efficient mobility through the area. The units were arranged in a U-shaped plan that clearly defined each housing cluster and created semi-public collective spaces for the residents. These spaces give, as the architect aptly puts it, “an intermediate level of association that allows surviving fragile social conditions [to exist].” The team also collaborated with the residents on building workshops that taught the families the basics to building and construction specific to their future houses. This enabled the families to have the instruction required in the future.

For more info, ArchDaily has a great write-up from which I borrowed a few photos.  Also, another great write-up:

2 Responses to “Third World Architecture: Case Study II”

  1. UDstudents Says:

    Hi John,

    I just stumbled upon your blog doing research for my university class. We are designing single-unit homes for underprivileged families in Honduras. They tend to lack electricity and running water, so they are very primitive homes that will at most have three rooms: a bedroom, a kitchen, and some sort of bathroom. Do you have any suggestions for us right off the bat? The homes will be in Honduras and at most we’re looking at spending 1000 on each home. Could you recommend any low-cost, sustainable materials? We’re also trying to think of some other things that might be able to help the families get things like clean water or electricity…could you give us any thoughts there? Any help at all would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks so much,
    Students at the University of Dayton

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