Shifting Power: The Importance of Funding Community Participation

fevereiro 8, 2011

A metodologia de intervenção utilizada pela Horizontes Arquitetura e Urbanismo em projetos de habitação social e intervenção em Vilas e Favelas foi citada no trabalho Shifting Power: The Importance of Funding Community Participation, de autoria de Jessica Bremner e Caroline Park.

As pesquisadoras, afiliadas à UCLA-University of California-Los Angeles, desenvolveram o trabalho através de extensa pesquisa de campo que incluiu visita a várias favelas de Belo Horizonte e entrevistas com a equipe da Horizontes, com técnicos da prefeitura, professores universitários (PUC Minas) e membros de associações comunitárias.

Sobre o trabalho da Horizontes elas citam:  “(…)  private architects from Horizontes Arquitetura were consulted by URBEL in order to efficiently design and activate new open spaces in the vilas. In our interview with the architects, they discussed how any open space within a vila will most likely be invaded by either squatters or drug dealers. Architects, Marcelo Palhares Santiago and Felipe de Farias, shared that as a result of the violence, many residents construct walls as protection from open spaces where drug traffickers are most likely to congregate. Additionally, most houses are built so that entry ways and windows do not face the road. Thus, many residents have are left with little option or encouragement to spend their free time outside their homes.

For this reason, the architects sought to find a way to preserve and protect the newly created open spaces by creating “active parks”. Active parks offer facilities and amenities that encourage physical activity, which could be used throughout the day by users of all ages. They include design elements that discourage excessive stationary activities by omitting tables and benches. In their design, the architects “play” with the hilly landscape in order to create non-traditional forms of seating. Other design concepts the architects supported were the creation of pedestrian paths that would better connect residents to their community, the use of bright colors and local graffiti artists to contribute to constructed recreation areas. (…)”

A conclusão da pesquisa destaca a necessidade de intervenções de qualidade, a importância do trabalho participativo como ferramenta critica de projeto e como estratégia para garantir maior aceitação da comunidade.


“Building for the Favelas : news from Brazil”

março 15, 2010

O site americano e-architects publicou uma matéria sobre a parceria entre Horizontes Arquitetura e o Arquiteto Fernando Lara (PhD, University of Texas, Austin). O texto de autoria de Fernando Lara, entitulado “Building for the Favelas : news from Brazil“, faz uma breve apresentação do programa de reurbanização de favelas da Prefeitura de Belo Horizonte (Vila Viva) e apresenta as estratégias de projetos utilizadas pela equipe.

“(…) Horizontes, a young trio in Belo Horizonte, have already accumulated significant experience with participatory processes in their first decade in practice. Now working in partnership with Fernando Lara (a professor with large international experience) they have been able to articulate a new approach to public spaces in the reminiscent areas between the new roads and the favela remaining buildings.

In Campo do Cascalho, and Pedreira Prado Lopes the design strategy has been to locate active programs (around sports) that foster collective appropriation and discourage “privatization” by any group or individual. At the same time the spaces have to be “defensible” with as much visibility as possible to contribute to the sense of security. Another preoccupation regards soil permeability. Being extremely dense (up to 300 people/ha) the favelas are also very much impermeable and that creates enormous problems during the rainy season when 100mm of rainfall per day is a weekly occurrence.

The design solution specifies traditional materials used in new ways to increase permeability in inclined platforms that foster active uses and discourage further illegal construction (flat surfaces are much easier to be quickly taken and incorporated to existing buildings).  (…)”

Para ler o texto completo acesse o site e-architects clicando aqui.

Daejeon Biennial – ‘Mineira’ Achitecture in South Korea

novembro 11, 2009

Projects presented at the 20th Daejeon Biennial, South Korea


Brazil has an enormous challenge in the housing deficit because 80% of its 185 million inhab live in the cities, thirty million live in extreme poor and precarious conditions. In Belo Horizonte 600 thousand people, 25% of its population, live apart from the city in 142 “favelas”. To face this problem is necessary to guarantee the right to the city and access to public urban services, to create the conditions for worthwhile life and to reverse the misery conditions.

Since 2000 the city government of Belo Horizonte has been promoting an urbanization process in some of these “favelas” which is called “Vila Viva”. The program consists on works of urbanization, sanitation, removal of families from high-risk areas of landslips and flooding, restructuring of the road system, implementation of parks and public facilities (health centers, community centers, schools, etc.), furthermore education activities and creation of alternatives to generate work and income.

The works of removing families from high-risk areas and the implementation of streets cause the removal of several homes. The displaced families receives compensation or are re-installed in new social housing structures. Thus arise several remaining spaces conformal within the limits of roads and houses that remain. In this context, the Horizontes´s role is the re-design of these areas, transforming them into high quality spaces for public usage.

Previous experiences show that suburban areas designed for resting and contemplation end up being dominated by drug dealers. The solution to avoid it is creating public spaces suitable for recreation activities and sports, and adoption of the concept of ‘defensible spaces’, where the total visibility contributes to the sense of security. These actions contribute to the appropriation of spaces by the community which is essential for its preservation because, otherwise, the space would be occupied by illegal housing.

As a project strategy the team developed a set of adjustable solutions that can be applied in different situations. The floors are designed with a big variety of pavements, permeable and semi-permeable so as to increase the natural absorption of water, essential in a city affected by serious flooding problems. Permeable Areas use native vegetation and tall trees in order to create shade and contribute to improve micro-climate and urban ambiance.

The street furniture take into account non-conventional uses. Details are in materials of high resistance and the lowest number of items to prevent vandalism. Concrete porches covered by plants are used as a goal for soccer and basketball hoop. Retaining walls serve as climbing walls and support for graffiti art and expressions of ‘hip-hop’ culture.

The topography is shaped to conform and organize these places by means of flat and steep surfaces, creating courtyards and slopes that can serve as benches, bleachers, skateboard ramps, slides for children, arenas for “capoeira”  performances, theaters, etc..

The challenge we face is promoting a positive impact on violent realities of the “favelas”. It is expected that each square meter reversed in vegetated public area can make a difference in the problems of urban flooding. And it is especially expected, that these places can help in the lives of still invisible children behind the walls preventing them to take the no-return way of life in the streets. The strategy action developed by Horizontes and its partners helped to elevate the current discourse on public works, by challenging traditional ways of building, using a rigorous approach albeit experimental design although.


Place:  Vila Conceição, Aglomerado da Serra | Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil | Team : Horizontes Arquitetura and Matheus Melo/ Cooperator: Nina da Silva | Hirer: Consortium of Camargo Corrêa and Santa Barbara Construction Contract Manager: Ana Cristina S. A. Alvarenga | Costumer: Urbel (Urbanization Company of Belo Horizonte)

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Place: Pedreira Prado Lopes | Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil | Team: Horizontes Arquitetura and Fernando Lara | Cooperator: Raoni Sena Ferraz | Hirer: Mello Azevedo Construction | Contract  Manager: Cláudio Menim de Oliveira Santos | Costumer: Urbel (Urbanization Company of Belo Horizonte)

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Place: Campo do Cascalho | Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil | Team: Horizontes Arquitetura and Matheus Melo | Cooperators: Mateus Castilho and Fábio Oliveira | Hirer: HAP engenharia | Contract Manager: Rosely Caldeira | Costumer: Urbel (Urbanization Company of Belo Horizonte)

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novembro 5, 2009

Holcim Awards is an international competition wich aims to recognize innovative sustainable projects. Horizontes participated in the contest in 2008 with a social housing design so called “Conjunto Santa Rosa 2”.

Text: Horizontes Arquitetura and Maria Elisa Baptista

Design: Horizontes Arquitetura, Natália Batista Botelho and Matheus Melo.

The key aspect of the project is the participation, since its conception, of the future dwellers. In order to face the huge Brazilian housing deficit (80% of the 185million inhab live in the cities, 30million people live in extreme poor and precarious conditions), it is necessary to guarantee the right to the city and access to public urban services, to create the conditions for worthwhile life and to reverse the misery conditions.

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The project allies the production of housing to the generation of work and income and to the popular organization by qualifying the participation of the users throughout the process of decision and production. Participatory decision-making instances have been established in parallel to skill enhancement workshops and to an understanding of the variables of the project, to the budget and its execution (possibilities and limitations of the plot of land; technical, financial and legal requirements; communities wishes and demands).

There are 50families, registered in the so-called Housing Participative Budget of Belo Horizonte City Administration (thus guaranteeing the access to urbanized land and to professional guidance by architects, engineers and social workers) and selected by the Federal Government Solidary Credit Program (thus accessing a viable financing plan in order to meet the construction work needs).

The architectural program/project is similar in all units, but dimensions and spatial configurations meet diverse ways of living, thus allowing for flexibility in the use and future modifications. The laundry area works as an extension of the kitchen, as a porch and it may articulate with the living-room; besides being used for income generation activities. The kitchen, integrated to the living-room, expands the space and may be closed as any dweller may please. The ground flats compensate for their smaller sizes with the gain of private backyards. The higher flats use their penthouses as private terraces. The intermediate floors have extended bedrooms. The layout of the blocks and the open stairways provide safety and vitality for the living spaces.

The option for a structural brick constructive system takes into account its high technological standard, constructive rationalization and waste reduction, besides being an element of great pedagogical effectiveness in the learning process of construction techniques. The formal solution translates typical cultural standards of Brazilian cities, in a scale suitable for the maintenance of urban quality.

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The project, a result of the integration among the city administration, the community and technicians, states the feasibility of achieving cost-effective architectural quality, by joining popular participation, constructive technologies and innovative spatial solutions.

1 – Quantum change and transferability

The participatory process of design and execution disseminates efficient low cost technical-constructive systems and a multipliable system of articulated solutions, combined an exchangeable, besides making forms of expression and representation of architectural projects accessible to the laypeople. The constructive system adopted unites the traditional construction methods of the region, in ceramic bricks, to the innovation of prefab concrete blocks and stone slab, modulated and articulated in components that prevent wastage, rationalizes the workmanship and does not requires heavy equipment. The transferability of the project resides in identifying the urban-architectural qualities and the involving the future dwellers and the technical assessorship.


2 – Ethical standards and social equity

The direct result of the project is the production of social housing in a self management system, within the qualification of technician and users, the use of new public financial programs and the strengthening of the communitarian associations. The interactive workshops aimed digital inclusion and the exercise of citizenship, demanding replies from the technical and public sectors. The enterprise, executed in regime of joint effort, with rewarded training of the dwellers, also works as professional qualification, generating, in a medium term, the improvement of life conditions and insertion in the labor market through the learned skills. The shared planning system extends the collective involvement with the conditions of healthiness, security, durability and legality.


3 – Ecological quality and energy conservation

Execution of small housing sets in central urban voids takes advantage of existing infrastructure and reduces displacement of population. Constructive rationality and standardized technologies reduces environmental impact, increases the performance of materials and avoid waste. Rooms with crossing ventilation, porches, terraces and backyards contribute to reduce heat and improve the micro climate.

4 – Economic perfomance and compatibility

Creative design solutions and standardization of components enables high quality architectural and urban spaces within the small budgets available, and reduces the cost of execution and maintenance. The technical installations inside external panels simplify the procedures of verification and maintenance, reducing management conflicts.

5 – Contextual and aesthetic impact

The formal solution achieved densities compatible with the cost of the land, generating elegant volumes integrated to the urban landscape. The laundry/porch, terraces, footbridges and open stairs privilege the public space, increase the permeability and intensify social relations, with high quality aesthetics.