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Officina 22 / Artificio

with Baiguera, Mazzolini


Officina is a magazine of Architecture, Technology and Environment born in 2014 in Italy.

The article has been developed for the number 22 Artificio. Here the link to the entire release:

*The article is originally in Italian as the entire magazine, below the translation in English.

In 2050, the UN forecasts will lead the earth to host growth of 10 billion people (UN, 2017). The scenario that foresees an increase in the population and emergencies such as immigration and natural disasters will affect the modus operandi of making architecture.

The world with which the architect finds himself and will have to deal with it is a fast world, constantly changing and always ready to pursue new frontiers. It will be essential for the designer to keep up and develop tools that can respond quickly to changing situations. Self-construction will not only be an alternative to traditional constructions to respond to calamities and emergencies but will carve out a fundamental role in the growth of a community.

The practice of do-it-yourself construction is in use and regulated in most Latin American countries, but even the large economies such as the United States and Europe find themselves integrating this way of doing architecture.

Countries like France, Ireland, Denmark have all seen this solution as a remedy to problems of ghettoisation and peripheral overcrowding, even in Germany self-construction covers about 25% of housing.

In Italy, many things were already being done in this field in the 1950s, only to slow down its evolution in the 1970s with the advent of large companies and the serial construction of suburbs. We can recognize the architect Giuseppe Cusatelli as the first promoter of self-construction. His first work in Varese in the 1980s found the participation of 14 families all united by the dream of a property. A dream that can be achieved because, as the architect claims, houses cost 50 to 70% less than market prices. Subsequently, starting in 2000 in many regions of our peninsula, including Campania, Emilia Romagna, Marche, Umbria, Tuscany and Puglia, a very ambitious experimental project called A Roof for All was launched.

The self-construction intervention which was coordinated by non-governmental organizations such as Alisei NGO was supposed to build hundreds of low-cost housing together with their tenants. The intent was to solve the housing problems of many families by cutting costs as the labour is made up of future owners. A project started with noble intentions but which in 2010 did not bring any useful results in terms of constructions and habitability; it was decided to abandon the initiative, leading some of the companies in charge of the work to go bankrupt and leaving the economic burden of investment to the Regions alone. More recently, DRO has created a self-construction project in Italy which involves the Puglia region, specifically the municipality of Barletta which, since 2012, has been working on an assisted construction and recovery project. the same region.

Photos of Quinta Monroy by Elemental

Credits: Planta Audiovisual

A process followed by a team of professionals and consultants that will lead to the construction of a residential complex that has 20 residential units that focus on environmental and energy sustainability. These projects have large-scale examples behind them, a successful one it is the Quinta Monroy by the Chilean office Elemental studio. The project by architect Alejandro Aravena interested 93 families from the city of Iquique and set itself as a solution to contain the proliferation of South American favelas, generating a collective space characterized by cheap and easy-to-maintain materials. The plant of the project was the starting point of a transformation left in the hands of the inhabitants who have elaborated extensions and characterized their home.

However, not all countries can afford a designer as in the Chilean case: in Peru, for example, the state has created a comic book guide that takes the inhabitant step by step to build their residence. Self-construction makes it possible to own the territory and improve it, the figure of the architect becomes a support for a project whose concept is not rigid but allows it to evolve and change with its user. After all, it is a peculiarity of the person to characterize a place and to sew the spaces on himself according to his needs and comfort.

"Leave a bit of space unplanned ", will be the architect's way of operating so that the client has the opportunity to grow and identify that place as his and hers alone. As the architect Yona Friedman claims," ​​Even when there is a great author, an architecture without a user is meaningless: it is a 'ruin! ...] A construction is not an object but a process. A good building is a patchwork "(Friedman, 2009). Making progressive architecture "means actively participating and sharing a way of producing housing, in which the future inhabitants are directly and materially involved." Self-builders are an organized community, self-managed, and assisted in procedures and work by expert and accredited professional technical personnel "(Colombo et ali, 2010).

Those who engage in projects of this type are people who are ready to get their hands dirty and to dedicate their time to make the dream of having a roof to live under a reality. Self-construction combined with the world of DIY, YouTube tutorials and online blogging is the direction the company is taking. The question that arises spontaneously is: where does the professional figure of the architect fit into? The designer's task is to interpret the place and time, but looking around us we perceive how the profession imposes itself on these two terms, creating the separation between society and architecture. This separation made the architect blind to the frenetic and uncontested change in the way of living, and blind to the possibility of starting to work on spontaneous architecture. Favelas and slam cities dominate the territory in percentage terms.

It is essential to think of a support design that provides tools capable of adapting to evolution and personalization by society without losing the quality of the space in which we live.

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