Alejandro Aravena will be the Director of the 15th Biennale of Architecture, to be held from May 28th to November 27th 2016.

After Rem Koolhaas’s Exhibition of 2014 about “Fundamnetals” of architecture, the Chilean architect will bring us in a dimension of best practices, telling us all about “success stories worth to be told and exemplary cases worth to be shared where architecture did, is and will make a difference […]”.

“The 15th International Architecture Exhibition will be about focusing and learning from architectures that through intelligence, intuition or both of them at the same time, are able to escape the status quo. We would like to present cases that, despite the difficulties, instead of resignation or bitterness, propose and do something. We would like to show that in the permanent debate about the quality of the built environment, there is not only need but also room for action”.

It is a story about hope in the future and faith in the tools of modern architecture, which follows the footsteps of Aravena’s housing initiative ELEMENTAL, an Urban Do Tank, partner of Universidad Catolica and Chilean Oil Company Copec.

The initiative introduces a dimension of temporariness within architectural projects, providing incremental solutions for affordable housing.

In 2004 the project of Quinta Monroy in Chile, experimented for the first time the idea of “unfinished” house and self-construction within the complex socio-economic context of the city of Iquiqe (Chile).

elemental1

The necessity was to create a settlement for 100 families in the same 5.000 sqm illegally occupied for the previous 30 years, this without renouncing to the central location of the site, which, despite the greater cost for the land, was fundamental for the success of the proposal, to exploit the opportunities of work, education, transportation and health that city offered.

The Housing Policy in Chile provides only around US$ 10.000 subsidy to pay for the land, the infrastructure and the house itself, a value that for the current Chilean building industry would have provided 40 sqm of built space for each family.

The first intuition was to look at the economic problem from another point of view so, rather than thinking about the best possible construction for US$ 10.000 to multiply by 100 times, it was decided to think about the best building solution worth US$ 1.000.000  and capable of accommodating 100 families.

Instead of designing a small house of 40 sqm, the basic structure was of a middle-income house of 80 sqm, of which the 50% was provided from the beginning and the other half would be eventually and progressively self-built by the inhabitants themselves. The houses have been then designed to be porous enough to allow each unit to expand within its own structure: the architect provided the skeleton for the development to happen, leaving its implementation to residents.

The Biennale of Architecture 2016 bodes to provide an innovative and cutting-edge vision, exploring the vitality of architecture and its power to solve the challenges of the current built environment.

If you are curious to discover more about Alejandro Aravena’s philosophy give a look to his interesting TED’s talk of 2014.