Award-winning architect builds 'half houses', says slums should inspire

Fri May 27, 2016 9:56am EDT
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By Matthew Ponsford

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Award-winning Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena wants city governments worldwide to stop fighting urban migration and look to Latin America's sprawling slums as inspiration for new housing.

The winner of the 2016 Pritzker, regarded as the Nobel Prize of architecture, Aravena says the vast 'favelas' in cities such as Rio de Janeiro highlight human resilience and the instinctive capacity for home-building.

He said if cities are going to successfully absorb the projected 1.5 billion new arrivals predicted by the United Nations over the next 15 years, they must learn lessons from urban slum dwellings.

"This is not, even for a second, a kind of romantic look at the favela as a kind of a pre-civilized, paradisic state of living," said Aravena in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Not at all. I mean, the favela is a disaster. But there are forces there that we should be able to channel through design."

Aravena is the director of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, which he will open to the public on Saturday.

The exhibition, titled 'Reporting from the Front', has challenged architects from around the world to propose solutions to some of the world's greatest urban problems - from re-building cities ravaged by war to making refugee camps liveable.

In contrast with high-profile past directors, dubbed "starchitects" for their showy buildings - Aravena, 48, is best known for designing low-rise social housing for families living in slums.   Continued...

A woman sits on a terrace at Tiki hostel in Cantagalo favela, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Pilar Olivares