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Elemental Iquique
Quinta Monroy, Iquique, Chile 2004


In the Chilean “Elemental” project series, the minimal apartment is a response not only to spatial but rather, above all, to economic limitations. The Elemental “doing tank,” having been initiated by three architects, creates housing property for the very poor under the premise that the public funding budget of US$7,200 per apartment should at least cover building lot, infrastructure, and framing, with the rest being handed over to residents for self-building. In view of sustainability, inner-city areas are purchased—despite property values being higher in some cases—where the prospective owners had previously resided in favela-like districts. The aim is to create a stable social milieu and solid market value for the property. The typology consists of two stacked apartments of circa 30 m2 each, which can be extended to 72 m2 with minimal effort. In the Quinta Monroy development the densely occupied units were completed within a period of only several weeks. The formation of clearly ordered groups of houses surrounding courts facilitates self-administration, allowing the government to save on maintenance costs.


Angelika Fitz


From favelas to social housing

ELEMENTAL: Alejandro Aravena, Alfonso Montero,
Tomás Cortese, Emilio de la Cerda, Andrés Iacobelli





Foto: © Felipe de Ferrari und Rodrigo Perez de Arche, 2008

chil_01.jpg chil_02.jpg chil_03.jpg chil_04.jpg chil_05.jpg chil_06.jpg chil_07.jpg chil_08.jpg chil_09.jpg

The Raw and the Cooked: Past, Present and Future in Quinta Monroy, Iquique, Chile
Iquique, Oktober 2008


The Quinta Monroy project was initiated by Alejandro Aravena1 in 2003 as a demonstration of an architect’s ability to engage in real challenges within a framework of very serious constraints. Inscribed within a government initiative for the lowest income families, the program within which the project was to be developed aimed at delivering a basic and expandable home for very lowincome families. US$7,200 per dwelling was the government handout destined to lead the poor into a path of incremental prosperity.2 An enlightened design fuelled by the exercise of rigor was thus required, given that this tightly set game admitted no possible redundancies.


The initiative was christened the “Elemental” project.3 Like a logo, this cunning term spans across languages, but, more interestingly, it also embodies an idea of excellence related to the attainment of the essential rather than the more limited scope of the “minimal.” In terms of a more general discourse, the challenge of an elemental habitat suggested a realignment of the discipline with real concerns, thus taking on board once more a host of provocative questions related to the needs of “ordinary” people aired by the modern movement many decades ago. Furthermore, in order to fully demonstrate the premise of quality architecture, the design process had to be comprehensively conducted through all the trials of a real project. As a matter of fact, Elemental did manage to reinsert social housing within academia and in the minds of young practitioners. (Some 45,000 houses per year are currently built in Chile of which a third falls within the range of social housing.) ...


(1) The scheme was developed by Alejandro Aravena, Andrés Iacobelli, Alfonso Montero, Tomás Cortese, and Emilio de la Cerda.
(2) Meanwhile, the government has again increased, by approx. 75 percent, these resources earmarked for new housing plans. The sum that had to be raised by each family from their personal savings in the beginning amounted to US$300.
(3) The conception of Elemental dates back to the year 2000 when three Chilean professionals—Alejandro Aravena, Andrés Iacobelli, and Pablo Allard—became acquainted at Harvard University, the former as a visiting professor and the latter two as PhD students. 


Rodrigo Perez de Arce and Felipe de Ferrari


for entire text see catalogue

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