SURPLUS HOUSING: From Project to Model

Housing as typology is one of the richest representations of a city’s history and evolution of culture. The gradual collection of dwellings in multiple forms of existence —from individual to collective and from provisional to permanent— makes up the basic building blocks of a city. The space of the dwelling, as a mediator between conditions of exterior and interior, between the public and private realm, is an essential component in the construction of urban life.  In the context of South America, the design of housing and the diverse models of domestic life it engenders, played a pivotal role in the physical and experiential identity of the post war metropolis.

This advanced research seminar will examine the legacy of housing as an architectural and urbanistic project in post-WWII South America. Since the late 1940s, the provision of housing has occupied a paradoxical position in the continent. On the one hand, architects have tested and refined models of housing through experimental design projects, inscribing new forms of domestic space and urban life. From the Copan Building in Sao Paulo and the Juscelino Kubitschek Complex in Belo Horizonte in the 1950’s to John Turner and the Previ experiments in Lima of the 1970’s to more recent initiatives like Elemental Chile in the early 2000s, housing has been front and center to the architect’s agenda. On the other hand, this expansive instrumental and methodological diversity in housing design has not fully participated within the larger institutional frameworks —primarily government sponsored programs and public private partnerships— put in place for the delivery of mass housing.

Through archival material and original drawings students will examine the legacy of experimental housing projects in relation to the architectural, social and political climates that facilitated their conception and implementation. Furthermore, through a careful reading of these projects, students will interpret how many of the spatial concepts embedded in the case studies are applicable to current housing and domestic space scenarios in the region.