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Elemental’s Monterrey Housing Wins Brit Insurance Architecture Design Award
Posted: Saturday, March 06, 2010 |

The Design Museum in London today announced the seven category winners of the Brit Insurance Design Awards 2010. Collectively they celebrate everyday design, reflecting international trends, current themes of sustainability and social enablement.

In the Architecture Category, Chilean studio Elemental won the first prize for Monterrey Housing, a new model for social housing in Mexico, a project which was first trialed in Chile. An international ‘do-tank’ based in Chile, Elemental focuses on finding solutions to the challenge of housing the world’s ever-increasing population.

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Monterrey from elementalchile on Vimeo. (Video: Ramiro Ramirez)

Other projects shortlisted for the Design Prize in the Architecture Category were Brandhorst Museum, Munich, Germany (Matthias Sauerbruch, Louisa Hutton and Juan Lucas Young for Sauerbruch Hutton), British Embassy, Warsaw, Poland (Tony Fretton Architects), High Line Park, New York, USA (James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro), Hutong Bubble 32, Beijing, China (Ma Yansong and Dang Qun, MAD Architects), MAXXI, National Museum of the XXI Century Arts, Rome, Italy (Zaha Hadid Architects), Melbourne Recital Centre and MTC Theatre Project, Melbourne, Australia (Ashton Raggatt McDougall), Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany (David Chipperfield Architects and Julian Harrap Architects), Ningbo Historic Museum, Ningbo, China (Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu, Amateur Architecture Studio), Porchdog House Prototype, Biloxi, Mississippi, USA (Marlon Blackwell Architects), Raven Row, London, UK (6a Architects), TEA, Tenerife Espacio de Las Artes, Canary Islands, Spain (Herzog & de Meuron),  and Youl Hwa Dang Book Hall, Paju Book City, South Korea (Architecture Research Unit (ARU), London Metropolitan University with Network in Architecture (NIA), Seoul).

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

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Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

Here’s a detailed description of the winning project from Elemental:

Restrictions: Santa Catarina is a city of 230,000 inhabitants, located in the state of Nuevo León, in the northwest of Mexico. This project is Elemental’s first outside of Chile.

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

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Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

The Government of Nuevo León, México, commissioned us to design a group of 70 homes on a site of .6 hectars in a middle class neighborhood in Santa Catarina. The required density suggested the application of the typology we developed for Iquique. However, the climate in Santa Catarina is very different from the northern dessert climate of Chile. The 600 mm of annual rainfall required us to adapt our proposal to this new question.

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

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Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

The commission to develop this middle class neighborhood with the financing of US$20,000 per dwelling (almost double the funds we had for the housing projects built by Elemental in Chile). However, the construction standards and building codes significantly raise the construction costs. In this case, it was pertinent to use the strategy of investing state resources to build “the difficult half” of the home, especially given the capacity do-it-yourself building observed in Mexico, ensuring a promising future for the expansions.

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

Click above image to enlarge
Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

The Project: ELEMENTAL Monterrey consists of a three-story continuous building that in section superimposes a home (first floor) with a two-story apartment above (2nd and 3rd story). Both units are designed to technically and economically facilitate the final middle class standard of which we will hand over the “first half” (40 m2). In this sense, the difficult parts of the house (bathrooms, kitchen, stairs, and dividing walls) are designed for the expanded scenario, that is, for a home of more than 58 m2 approx. and an apartment of approximately 76 m2.

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

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Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

Secondly, given that almost 50% of the m2 of the complex will be self-built, this building is porous so that the growth can occur within the structure. On one hand we want to frame and give rhythm (more than control) to the spontaneous construction so as to avoid deterioration of the urban environment over time, and also make the process of expansions for each family easier. The proposed continuous roof above the volumes and voids protects the expansion zones from rain and ensures a definitive profile of the building toward the public space.

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

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Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

Third, experience tells us that in lower class neighborhoods the green spaces tend to be “earth spaces,” due to the scarcity of maintenance and the distance that exists between green space and the home that makes it difficult for neighbors to take care of.  What we did in this case was to surround the green space with building, reducing the distance between communal space and the home to a minimum. This permitted us to define a collective space with secure Access that gives space to the social network and generates favorable conditions for maintenance and care.

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

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Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

All the apartments have direct Access from the public space and parking, a condition especially relevant in a country where every family can have access to an automobile.

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

Click above image to enlarge
Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

Project Details:
Name: 70 HOUSING UNITS
Status: Under construction
Location: Monterrey (México)

Land area: 6.591m²
Initial house: 40m²
Final house: 76.6m²
Initial duplex: 40m²
Expanded duplex: 76.6m²

Client: Instituto de la vivienda de Nuevo León (IVNL)
Engineering: Área de Proyectos e Innovación tecnológica, IVNL
Urbanization and specialization: Área de Proyectos e Innovación tecnológica, IVNL

Monterrey Housing by Elemental

Click above image to enlarge
Monterrey Housing by Elemental (Photo: Ramiro Ramirez)

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