I mentioned this project as an example of what I would like to achieve in a previous post. It is the Quinta Monroy housing project in Iquique, Chile by the Chilean firm, Elemental. There are a number of aspects that I really like about it and I think the spirit of the project fits very well with my own. The diagram below shows what the architects were trying to achieve:
They provided the families with essentially 50% of a very basic living unit, choosing "to make the half that a family alone would never be able to achieve on its own, no matter how much money, energy or time they spend." (Elemental) This design decision kept costs down and left room for them to expand and customize on their own as their family sizes and needs required. As you can see from the images below, the housing units were basically just concrete shells but allowed for maximum flexibility when it came to adapting and expanding the spaces to each family's needs:
The architects used a row-house typology for the units which both made the most efficient use of the space on the site (without building a high-rise) and provided the best supporting framework for future self-building and expansion by the occupants:
I like how the architects in this case attempted to give as much power to the users as possible while at the same time providing them with basic needs (some land and a roof over their heads) that they might not be able to initially obtain by their own means. They acknowledged that part of giving people a way out of poverty and dependency is giving the ability to control their own lives and their personal space. The architect's ego is completely absent from this project. The design came not out of some abstract conceptual idea that only the architect would understand but out of an attempt to meet the unique needs of the occupants.
The exact design of this project may not be directly applicable to my own - for one thing, the row house typology might be too low-density for my site - but the spirit of providing the basics and then allowing the users to construct their own space certainly is: