Lo Barnechea I / II


Lo Barnechea is a housing project focused on providing adequate, quality housing to Santiago’s largest informal settlement; a total of 880 families. The project is located in the Lo Barnechea neighborhood on the Mapocho River, one of Santiago’s highest income areas. Land is expensive in this area, as it is in close proximity to jobs, schools, health care, grocery stores and open green space. The housing project replaced 770 informal housing sites in 4 phases so that families would not be displaced. The first phase, Lo Barnechea I houses 130 families.

Constructed: June 2009-July 2010
Unit size (initial): 44 sq. meters
Unit size (after expansion): 69 sq. meters
Budget: appr. $1 million USD = $7,700 per unit

FullSizeRenderCourtesy of ELEMENTAL. Site Plan of Phase I. The units are arranged in clusters of 12, each of which surrounds a communal outdoor area.

(Want to check out the floor plans? ELEMENTAL has now made 4 of their housing projects accessible in PDF and DWG formats. Unfortunately my little traveling lap top can’t handle the download.)

010_BA1_08_b1Photo by ELEMENTAL. It is amazing to see how different a housing project is portrayed in its initial professional photographs versus a few years after residents have moved in. It is really an interesting experience to witness how the end-users create and define their own spaces.

FullSizeRenderIn my photo you can see several resident-additions built on to the front of the units. These were mostly small kiosks built as small family businesses. Recreational areas to the left in the photo provide areas of play and access to green space. Public transportation including local bus routes and the metro are within a 10-minute walk of the site.

010_BA1_04_b1Photo by ELEMENTAL. The project utilized confined masonry, reinforced concrete walls and wood beams (structure), wooden paneling and gypsum board (interior) and galvanized corrugated steel (roofing). The interiors are extremely modest with bare-bone basics.

IMG_8542 (1)Housing is designed around semi-private/public courtyard areas that have transformed into parking/landscaped/built-out entrance areas.

010_BA1_02_b1Photo by ELEMENTAL.

FullSizeRenderResidents throughout the housing project have constructed fencing around their properties to define personal space and I might assume for the feeling of safety.

010_BA1_03_b1Photo by ELEMENTAL.

FullSizeRenderThe community center has taken a bit of a beating. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enter the building.

FullSizeRenderConstructing fencing around valued areas is a reality in much of Santiago’s low-income neighborhoods. Some nice vegetation had taken the place of the dirt seen in the original photographs around the community center.

FullSizeRenderThe buildings looked to be in great shape, with the white painted block still crisp and clean. Here residents have built a front porch and balcony. Materials used by residents range from metal to OSB to block- and a wide range of skill sets is obvious.

FullSizeRenderSmall playgrounds can be found in a few locations around Lo Barnechea. Kids don’t need elaborate play structures to have fun; simple slides and swingsets never get old.

FullSizeRenderThe units were designed so that families could expand upward. Ventilation is provided on each upper floor through cross-ventilating windows. The units have the ability to total 3 bedrooms at the end of expansion.

IMG_9165Each unit has 2 main levels with a 3rd half level. The housing concept, described by ELEMENTAL as the “bracket wall house”, has a structural wall every 1.5 meters, which provides enough space in width for the living spaces. The units measure 6 meters in depth.

FullSizeRenderThis particular resident built on a small kiosk on the first floor and an enclosed patio on the second.

FullSizeRenderA lack of adequate infrastructure exists at the entance of the neighborhood, forcing drivers to use a one-lane road for two-way traffic. Other low-income housing projects and informal settlements neighbor Lo Barnechea.

The project is located far east of Santiago’s city-center. Lo Barnechea II was built in 2014 and is located around the corner to Lo Barnechea I- with the same design concept.

It is amazing to think that these units were built for about $7,700 each. This is extremely low-income housing, something I haven’t had the chance to see much of previously. The value of the architect’s ideas and creative thinking is priceless in projects like this- it’s crucial to the success and even survival of the project. I have a new appreciation for the value of design and the value of the creative process. Now only to convince clients that an architect’s fee is justifiable…




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