Alejandro Aravena: Good Housing for All


Alejandro Aravena speaks at a TED conference in 2014
photo by TED Conference via Flickr

Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid tell about a building designer Alejandro Aravena and his company. They aim to solve the world’s coming housing crisis by building low-cost, good houses.

Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2  

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

On February 27, 2010, the country of Chile experienced a major earthquake. For three minutes, the ground moved violently. Cities all over the country felt the effects. The earthquake caused major damage to buildings, roads and bridges. And it killed hundreds of people. It was one of the strongest earthquakes officials ever recorded.

Voice 2  

For cities like Constitución, Chile, the disaster did not end when the earth stopped shaking. Eighteen minutes after the earthquake began, a tsunami hit the coast. A six-meter-tall wave of water crashed onto the city. It flooded Constitución and caused even further damage.

Voice 1  

A few weeks later, Alejandro Aravena visited the city of Constitución. He rode in a helicopter, high above the ground. From the sky, he could see the wide- spread damage. Aravena is an architect. He designs buildings. Government officials and a local business brought Aravena there. They hoped he would help rebuild the city.

Voice 2  

After seeing the damage, Aravena knew he wanted to help. Since that time, Aravena and his organization ELEMENTAL have redesigned and rebuilt the city of Constitución. But he has also designed other cities in need. Today’s Spotlight is on Alejandro Aravena and his desire to produce good housing for all people.

Voice 1  

Alejandro Aravena studied architecture in his home country of Chile. He later continued studying architecture in Italy. Since then, he has designed many famous, large, and beautiful buildings in Chile, the United States, Mexico, China, and Switzerland.

Voice 2  

But Aravena wants to do more than just design beautiful buildings. His goal is to help provide good housing for poor communities in the world’s cities. The world’s cities continue to grow at a very fast rate. Aravena recognizes that this will cause a major housing crisis in cities around the world. In 2014, Aravena gave a TED talk speech. In the speech, he explained,

Voice 3  

“By the year 2030, five billion people will live in cities. Two billion of those people will be living in poverty. That means, for the next 15 years, we will have to build a one-million-person city every week. And we will only have $10,000 dollars to spend for each family. If we do not solve this problem, people will not stop coming to the world’s cities. They will still come. But they will live in slums, favelas, and other unofficial and poor-quality communities.”

Voice 1  

Because of this problem, Aravena decided to start an architectural organization called ELEMENTAL. ELEMENTAL is a “Do Tank.” You may recognize the term “Think Tank”. A “Think Tank” is an organization that ‘thinks’ of new solutions to problems. But Aravena calls ELEMENTAL a “Do Tank” because ELEMENTAL wants to do more than just ‘think’ about solutions. It wants to ‘do’ something to solve the problem of poor quality housing in the world’s cities.

Voice 2  

ELEMENTAL wants to design homes that are good quality. But they want their designs to be easy to build, copy, and use in many parts of the world. Aravena told the New York Times news organization,

Voice 3  

“We do not think of ourselves as artists. Architects usually like to build things that are unusual and different. But if something is unusual, it cannot be repeated. So, it has close to zero value for serving many people in many places.”

Voice 1  

ELEMENTAL produces good quality social housing through ‘incremental’ housing. It is a process that moves in increments - small steps - toward progress. They design complete homes and communities. However, they design their homes knowing that they will only build half of the home at first. Building only half the home keeps the original cost of the home low. Families that live in ELEMENTAL homes must promise to build the second half of the home. It may take months or years for the family to save enough money to build the rest of the house. However, they can live in the small, good-quality home until they are able to pay for the remaining part. The people build these communities slowly over time. But the end product is a very high quality community.

Voice 2  

ELEMENTAL and Aravena redesigned the city of Constitución using this ‘incremental’ approach. They also spent a lot of time listening to the people of Constitución. Aravena believes that good design is more successful when the people are involved in making decisions. When redesigning Constitución, many leaders and officials wanted to build a large wall along the coast. They wanted to protect the new city from future tsunamis. However, most of the people did not want this wall. Tsunamis were very rare. The people were more worried about yearly flooding and a lack of community green spaces.

Voice 1  

So, Aravena proposed another idea. He suggested not building the wall. He also suggested not rebuilding the tsunami-damaged area. Instead, he suggested making this area a public park ― a place where the citizens of Constitución could enjoy nature. In the future, if a tsunami or flooding happened, the public area could flood. But no homes would be in danger.

Voice 2  

Constitución is only one example of Aravena’s social housing design. ELEMENTAL has designed and built low-cost housing for many communities. And in 2016, Aravena announced that ELEMENTAL would release their designs to the public ― for free. During a press release at the United Nations headquarters, Aravena announced,

Voice 3  

“We put all the plans and information of the successful projects that we have done so far on the Internet. They will be public knowledge.”

Voice 1  

Aravena’s social approach to architecture is different. But many experts have noticed his work. In 2016, officials gave Aravena the Pritzker award. This is the world’s highest award for architecture. When the Pritzker officials announced that Aravena was their 2016 winner, they explained why.

Voice 4  

“The job of the architect is now being challenged to serve greater social and human needs. Alejandro Aravena has clearly, freely and fully responded to this challenge.”

Voice 2  

Is good, low-cost housing a problem in your city? Do you think ELEMENTAL’s ‘incremental’ housing plan would work well where you live? What ideas do you have for solving the world’s growing housing crisis? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. And find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Robin Basselin. The producer was Bruce Gulland. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Alejandro Aravena: Good Housing for All.”

Voice 2  

You can also get our programmes delivered directly to your Android or Apple device through our free official ‘Spotlight English’ app. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Is there a housing crisis in your city? Does everyone have a place to live?

Comments


Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on October 30, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Sunday 30, October 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Robin Basselin, and Bruce Gulland:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!

Yes, there is.
But, there is a service of the government in which is called “Minha casa minha vida”. So, that service of the government has built many houses toward poor people.
No, it does not.
However, the government and the mayor of the São Paulo city have built a lot of houses and apartment buildings toward poor people.
Therefore, there is a big problem in which that housing crisis has increased more and more at each year such as: the immigration mainly from Africa, the number of birth of children every year, the lack of the jobs for many people, and etc.
Finally, it would be very interesting if there were a birth control. Also, many of these children have been abandoned at baby boxes, orphanages, and etc.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil