E for ELEMENTAL


Who are we to tell people how to live?


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Elemental is a design and building company located in Chile. Their approach is to present solutions for the complex problems caused by urban poverty in terms of housing, public spaces and infrastructure through innovative design based on participatory planning.


In 2030, the population of the world living in cities will grow from 3 to 5 billion with 2 billion of these inhabitants living below the poverty line. The equation that the world needs to solve: to build a 1million inhabitant city per week for the next 20 years with $10,000 dollars per family.”


For Their first Project, they had to provide housing for 100 families on half of a hectare of land in Iquique, with a public subsidy of $10,000 US dollars per house. This budget had to cover the cost of very expensive land, design and construction, which meant that this was barely enough to build 40m2 houses. The only possible solution for this project was to construct social housing buildings. However, these families were opposed to this model because they would not be able to expand these small apartments.

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A successful solution was achieved by designing houses that could be easily expanded. By building the initial half of the house, which its owners would have never been able to build on their own, they managed to provide affordable housing on which the owners started expanding within a couple of weeks.

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The key of this project was to involve people in the planning through workshops and consultations and to channel their own building capacity. They provided the frame and from then on the families took control. This model has successfully continued to be applied through different projects in Latin America.

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For more information about this and other projects from ELEMENTAL, you can visit their website, Alejandro Aravena website and his TED Talk.


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