This paper analyses the incremental housing process developed at Villa Verde, a housing project designed by the Chilean architecture firm Elemental, whose director Alejandro Aravena received the Pritzker Prize in 2016. This project is conceived within a social housing framework and designed as an affordable “half-house” to be incrementally extended by the owners.
This paper is based on research undertaken in August 2017 with data obtained through site surveys, trace analysis, interviews with 32 residents and photographic surveys. The researchers mapped the modifications made by all households at Villa Verde in the four years after occupation.
The strategy of designing a formal framework for informal additions has generally been successful with most houses undergoing substantial expansion to a high standard of construction. The paper raises concerns regarding the settlement's urban design, response to local climate and the quality of shared open space. We also find evidence of over-development as informal additions extend across front and rear yards that are in some cases fully enclosed.
This project is critiqued within the context of a long series of architectural attempts to harness the productive capacities of self-help housing. Villa Verde engages the freedom to build in a self-organised manner within a formal framework. But what will stop these additions from escalating into a “slum”?
The authors would like to thank the architect Julio Carrasco for his valuable support during data collection and the architect Cesar Vergara for his kind support and explanation about the construction context of Villa Verde. The authors also acknowledge the important contributions from Lidia Vergara, president of the ‘Las Camelias’ neighbors’ committee in Villa Verde, the community leaders, and the residents that kindly participated in our study.
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