An architecture firm called Elemental recently completed a disaster relief project in a city in Chile which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. Rather than build typical public housing (high-rise apartments), the firm built out neighborhoods with the necessary infrastructure and populated them with half-finished houses.
The houses are simple, two-story homes, each with wall that runs down the middle, splitting the house in two. One side of the house is ready to be moved into. The other side is just a frame around empty space, waiting to be built out by the occupant.
These half-built houses are a unique response from urban planners to the housing deficit in cities around the world. The approach has its roots in a building methodology made popular by the 1972 essay, “Housing is a Verb,” by architect John F.C. Turner. Turner made the case that housing ought not be a static unit that is packaged and handed over to people. Rather, housing should be conceived of as an ongoing project wherein residents are co-creators.
The continued reports from Chile about those miners trapped in the mine are kind of fascinating. Here’s an article about the battle between the miners and the doctors, psychologists, and government officials attempting to manage them from afar.
In an effort to dominate the miners, the team of psychologists led by Mr Iturra has instituted a series of prizes and punishments. When the miners behave well, they are given TV and mood music. Other treats — like images of the outside world are being held in reserve, as either a carrot or a stick should the miners become unduly feisty.
In a show of strength, the miners have at times refused to listen to the psychologists, insisting that they are well. “When that happens, we have to say, ‘OK, you don’t want to speak with psychologists? Perfect. That day you get no TV, there is no music — because we administer these things,’” said Dr Diaz. “And if they want magazines? Well, then they have to speak to us. This is a daily arm wrestle.”
This is the control room for Project Cybersyn, which was actually a real thing and not some Pertwee-era UNIT thing from Doctor Who.
Project Cybersyn was a Chilean attempt at real-time computer-controlled planned economy in the years 1970-1973 (during the government of president Salvador Allende). It was essentially a network of telex machines that linked factories with a single computer centre in Santiago, which controlled them using principles of cybernetics. The principal architect of the system was British operations research scientist Stafford Beer.