SURPLUS HOUSING: Models of Collective Living in South America.

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 a series of canonical case studies, paired with the larger government programs that instigated them, this seminar will investigate the paradoxes of housing in South America. In an effort to better bridge these conflicting conditions and construct new models of implementation and replication, we will look at the affinities and disconnects between experiments in housing design and those implemented more widely by government and private-public partnerships. Furthermore, the seminar will speculate on emergent housing models that can reposition domestic space as the backbone of a more integral urban project—one capable of integrating the physical and experiential identities of current government sponsored projects on the continent.

The semester will be composed of three discrete, yet interrelated parts phases. For the first portion of the semester, students will be introduced through lectures by the instructor and by guests, to the most significant ideas and concepts that shaped the design of housing in South America throughout the twentieth century.

For the second portion of the semester, students, through individual research will be asked to construct a collective inventory of experimental residential design projects from 1940 until today. Each student will be asked to construct, in drawing, a “genealogy” of housing projects for one of five cities. Buenos Aires, Caracas, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, Quito, and Sao Paulo.

Finally, for the third and longest portion of the semester, each student will choose one canonical project from the larger inventory constructed in the previous phase, and examine its influence in the production of housing throughout the continent. The seminar will rely heavily on comparative studies through plan and section.