Al Borde Arquitectos from Ecuador are redefining their paradigm on the architects’ role in society and have created a documentary about the practice of the post-crisis generation of young architecture studios. The LafargeHolcim Awards 2014 jury for Latin America praised the young architects based in Quito for their urban revitalization project that draws on the rural tradition of barter. This form of non-monetary exchange enables the refurbishment of housing in the historical center of the city for residents without sufficient monetary means. The project was considered “a promising economic model to literally mine cities rather than nature” by the jury.
The film looks at the construction of real projects with students, users, and architects themselves. Created by Chilean journalist Katerina Kliwadenko and Spanish architect Mario Novas the film has been featured at architecture exhibitions and presentations at universities in Brazil, Ecuador, France, Hungary, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the USA. The documentary will remain “on tour” at international film festivals until 2019, until it is released for individual viewing.
The project “Under Construction” was completed in 2016, with eight residences (totalling 400 square meters) restored in an abandoned building where tenants exchange their labour as a form of rent. Al Borde Arquitectos were invited to participate in the main exhibition in the 15th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice. Never before had an Ecuadorian studio been invited to showcase its work in the most important architecture exhibition in the world. The studio showed a series of projects and studios, all of them part of a unique “architectural movement” which seeks to address real issues, be part of society and change the established role of the architect.
Al Borde Arquitectos have not only created their own niche for architectural production, but have gained substantial visibility in terms of shifting the parameters on what is defined as good architecture. Their form of architecture upholds local values with a heightened sensitivity to materials and human resources – and enhances social, economic, and environmental outcomes in the projects they develop.
The Latin American portrayal of new perspectives in the social context of architecture has attracted international attention in recent years – and a new focus in understanding the role of the architect. This trend is also shown in the appointment of internationally renowned Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena (founder of Elemental Studio, Pritzker Prize laureate of 2016, and member of the Board of the LafargeHolcim Foundation) as Curator of the 15th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice under the theme of “Reporting from the Front” in 2016.See more
Construction of the Acknowledgement winning urban remediation project in the historic center of Quito is well under way and on track for completion by the end of 2016. Not only is the dream of restoring the building fast becoming reality, the approach of Al Borde Arquitectos appeared in the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America at the Chicago Architectural Biennial.
The urban remediation project is based on restoring eight residences (totaling 400 square meters) in an abandoned building where tenants exchange their labor as a form of rent. More than half of the project has been completed, including the construction of an architectural office and refurbishment of three apartments. To finalize the restoration, three more residences will be completed in 2016. Due to the state of disrepair of the buildings, the remediation estimates the value of the residences has risen between 80 and 300 per cent, delivering significant benefit also to the property owner.
“Our dream of inhabiting an abandoned house that has been renewed by means of a non-conventional practice will soon be our reality,” explains David Barragán, one of five enthusiastic young architects that make up Al Borde. All were born in Quito and all are architecture graduates from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador.
David Barragán also commented that winning the Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize had created enormous visibility for the project, and the ongoing work of Al Borde. The competition provided welcome applause and finances, but also enhanced opportunities to share the project’s approach and successes with a growing community of interconnected practitioners.
The project and its approach to sustainable design is also featured in La Ville Rebelle: démocratiser le Projet Urbain = The Rebel City: How to Democratize Urban Planning (Gallimard Collection Manifesto, 2015).
Chicago Architecture Biennial
Al Borde was one of forty international studios to be official participants in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, considered the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America. The exhibition explores the inspiring work that a new generational of architects is producing in radically different cultural, social, and economic scenarios.
The architects invested a large proportion of their budget for the Chicago Architecture Biennial in continued work on completing the “Triplets” building that will form a flat or office. Over the course of the exhibition, regular updates on the project blog formed part of their display and maintained focus on utilizing available resources to achieve project realization:
The project Under Construction in Quito is about a form of “social economy” and its implications for people and the physical environment they inhabit. Despite contemporary global urbanization and its attendant economy, there are still rural areas today where barter is the main mode of exchange. The project draws on this tradition and proposes bartering as a practice in an urban context for the refurbishment of the historical center of the city – a process carried out by people without sufficient monetary means. Here, bartering replaces typical capital investment with a direct form of exchange between two parties. For example: the owner of an abandoned house in need of restoration and tenants without monetary means but willing to exchange their labor as a form of rent.
David Barragán of Al Borde Arquitectos explains how his Holcim Awards Acknowledgement winning project translates a rural practice of barter into an urban context. “Under Construction: Restoring an urban historical center” in Quito, Ecuador recommends an approach that encompasses the use of a near-extinct form of trade to rescue threatened historical centers.
An urban restoration project for Quito by Al Borde Arquitectos from Ecuador won a Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize. The project proposes a “social economy” to refurbish the historic center of the city.Read more »
The jury noted that Under Construction is one of few entries in the competition that suggests a method rather than espousing a specific design proposal. The recommended approach encompasses the use of a near-extinct form of trade to rescue threatened historical centers. Additionally, the strategy involves the reuse and recycling of existing material stocks. Materials that cannot be directly reprocessed are re-inserted into new use-cycles: wood for making furniture, stones for making foundations and construction debris for making gardens. All in all, the design promotes not only a promising economic model, but most importantly one put to work to literally mine cities rather than nature.
The project Under Construction in Quito, Ecuador is about a form of “social economy” and its implications for people and the physical environment they inhabit. Despite contemporary global urbanization and its attendant economy, there are still rural areas today where barter is the main mode of exchange. The project draws on this tradition and proposes bartering as a practice in an urban context for the refurbishment of the historical center of the city – a process carried out by people without sufficient monetary means.
Here, bartering replaces typical capital investment with a direct form of exchange between two parties. For example: the owner of an abandoned house in need of restoration and tenants without monetary means but willing to exchange their labor as a form of rent.
What this project proposes is not new. Barter usually replaces money as the method of exchange in times of monetary crisis. Although there is not a monetary crisis per se, gentrification of the historical center of Quito reproduced the same phenomenon for the vulnerable side of the population. If the planning of the city puts interest only in technical and infrastructure restorations, maybe the result will be a Disneyland city for tourist routes. The project is not against tourism: it is clear that tourism brings good things, but it is not possible either, that after 8pm, areas that used to be residential neighborhoods lie deserted because no one lives there.
Under Construction focuses interest on the intangible city, more than on its infrastructure. The same intangible relations gave a solution to the lack of the traditional requirements (money) for the urban reactivation. The project proposes to replace capital investments with direct exchange based on agreements between entities. A plan of economic compensation has been designed, and was proposed to the owner of one of the abandoned buildings. He accepted. Then, a constructive process that requires no specialized machinery and which is accessible to unskilled labor (the project authors and team) was designed. Intervention strategies include:
Removing rather than adding: The main resource is abandoned space: dark, uncomfortable and dysfunctional. Excavate, remove, and empty to resurrect. Building system = demolition.
Recycling rather than throwing and buying: Separate all material that is considered useful for new elements; basically timber and furniture. The remainder is 50% soil (material used in almost all houses in the historic center of Quito) and 50% common construction debris. The union of these materials results in a garden (soil) on a drainage system (common debris). Construction systems = the most basic “do-it-yourself” videos downloaded from the Internet.
Preserving rather than restoring: Making it easier to ensure the durability of buildings. Building system = sealed.
At first the project just tries to resolve its own problems. But then as a result of everyday conversations about what people don’t like in the city the question arose: “What if this barter strategy of intervention becomes popular?” The first intervention shows that it is perfectly feasible: and the project team considers the micro-interventions are capable of generating a macro impact.Download project entry poster - English (PDF, 3.92 MB) »Descargar cartel de proyecto - Español (PDF, 3.92 MB) »See more
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David Barragán of Al Borde Arquitectos explains how his Holcim Awards Acknowledgement winning project translates a rural …
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