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Mexico’s $7,000 Public Housing Looks Like High Design

Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao has designed a $7,000 home to help with her country’s public housing shortage. The prototype, on show at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, is designed to be built by regular people and to be added to as the need arises.

In Mexico, many people build their own homes and add to them as their families grow or when they can afford to extend. Bilbao’s simple design is made for these people and can be adapted to fit the varying climates across the country. It is also way cheaper than using traditional materials and building methods.

Regulations for public housing stipulate a minimum area of 463-square feet, but Bilbao’s design starts at 667-square feet and can be built as big as 1,292-square feet.

“In Mexico, the social housing model is unlivable, unhealthy, and dangerous,” Bilbao told New City Design’s Jeff Link. “Historically, developers have understood social housing as a financial operation, and architects didn’t fit in the equation.”

The architectural approach has solved problems the developers never cared to. For instance, people like both pitched roofs and extra space. The usual answer was to ditch the pitched roof in favor of a terrace. Bilbao’s answer was better design.

“We figured out a way–by making interior patios and double-height spaces–for a house-owner to double their space by building partitions,” she told Link, “all without exceeding the original footprint of the house, contained under the traditional pitched roof.”

The home, on which the one in the Chicago Biennial is based, is part of a scheme to provide loans for small businesses to build housing for poor people. But it can be built from all manner of found or local materials–bricks, shipping palettes, and panelling, so the design is also suitable as an alternative to traditional self-built homes.CS