Elemental is a Do Tank affiliated to the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and COPEC, its focus is the design and implementation of urban projects of social interest and public impact. ELEMENTAL is based in three principles:
A. To think, design and build better neighborhoods, housing and the necessary urban infrastructure to promote social development and overcome the circle of poverty and inequity of our cities;
B. In order to trigger a relevant qualitative leap-forward, our projects must be built under the same market and policy conditions than any other, working to achieve “more with the same”.
C. By quality we understand projects whose design guarantees incremental value and returns on investment over time, in order to stop considering it a mere “social expense”.
In this spirit, ELEMENTAL contributes to improve the quality of life in Chilean cities, providing state of the art architecture and engineering, understanding the city as an unlimited resource to build social equity.
Elemental’s Director Alejandro Aravena made a presentation “ LSE London centred on the Quinta Monroy housing development in Iquique, northern Chile. Starting from the economic realities of government subsidies for low to middle income housing, the architect’s task was described as a simple one: achieving as much as you could for the meagre amount available. Showing the norm (a grim 25sq m house in the middle of a moderately sized plot), the architect identified the main problem as the fact that the box is soon mobbed by a chaos of extensions, irrevocably giving the area the appearance (and reputation) of a shanty town.
Aravena’s solution is to build “half a house” of more adequate dimensions for the same money, leaving the precisely described gaps within which the remainder could be completed through self-build. The resultant terraces of densely packed concrete framed buildings are then feasible on more centrally located (and therefore costly) land. This allows low-cost housing to remain within denser cities, rather than enforcing permanent exile and the tyranny of the long commute that is the reality in many South American cities. It is not completely new as an idea, but compellingly described: the architectural resolution of a financial problem.