A manifesto against poverty

As practising architects not only we have to be attentive to new legislation coming out practically every week  but also to new tendencies in architecture and of course to the necessities of people that may be less fortunate than ourselves.

In this occasion I am refereeing to the information coming out of the latest Chicago Architecture Biennial.


The Chicago Architecture Biennale has exhibited a groundbreaking prototype of housing for the poorest.


For 6.000€

The dreams of millions of Mexicans can easily fit in 63.35 square meters. That is the space occupied by the so-called Popular Housing, one of the flagship projects presented at the Biennale of Architecture in Chicago. They have two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. In this small space is where a small great revolution has thrived. The bombshell in this news relies in the fact that the house only costs 6,000 Euros (about 120,000 pesos), and can be built in less than a month, apart from the fact that it can be built, as an Ikea furniture, by their own inhabitants.


A lady architect.

The prototype, designed by the Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, was born of an ancient need. In a country with 120 million inhabitants, demography has been a monster which for decades has crushed the dreams of the weakest. The population has grown much faster than GDP. The result is that Mexico has 53 million of poor people (11 million of them in extreme precariousness) and an imperative need for 9 million new homes. Twice as many as the whole population of Ireland. The Mexican government attempts to fill in this shortage has been insufficient. The real estate cost plus the benefit of builders, has reduced the impact of government assistance and adequate housing become an almost unattainable goal for the most needed of this country, in estates like Chiapas or Oaxaca.


To overcome this barrier, Tatiana Bilbao has developed her prototype. Extremely functional and sustainable, her work conveys ideology without any doubt. "Architecture has moved away from society and must be relevant again, exercising its power to give or take life quality. The social welfare must take precedence over economic" explains this lady architect and author of this project.


Built in three weeks.

The house has been built in the eyes of the organizers in just three weeks.

Awarded in 2014 with the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the creator is the granddaughter of Basque architect and minister of the Republic, Tomas Bilbao. The spirit of her grandfather, founder of Basque Nationalist Action who died in exile covers her work whose designs include Ajijic House or the Botanical Gardens of Culiacan, two references in the young Latin American architecture.


In her latest challenge, Bilbao had as her own aim the idea of giving quality of life to the users, but without increasing cost or simplicity. The construction details have been refined to the maximum at the Chicago Biennial, where the temperature is taken to the latest global trends; the house has been built in the eyes of the organizers in just three weeks. "All elements were incorporated except the toilets, because they said that visitors could use it without permission.


Another element of rupture in popular housing tendencies is the space itself. The 63.35 square meters of area (country version) exceed by 46% the minimum authorized for a government public home in Mexico (43 meters). This increase in area improves the habitability, and with it, the feeling of a proper home. Apparently the residents cannot believe it when they come to see it.


A manifesto against poverty.

The external finish, with brightly colours walls, influences this effect. Construction can be in adobe block or w-panel (polystyrene with steel wire armour). All this is topped with a modular structure that allows its expansion without undue difficulty. The result has already been tested in twenty homes in the states of Chiapas and Coahuila. The buildings are lightweight, comfortable and of a much higher standard of finishes than the usual type provided by the government. A worthy home created for the needy. But I will not be wrong in saying without doubt that it is a powerful a manifesto against poverty.


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