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Shelter housing by Shigeru Ban, Nepal. Source Archdaily.

Flexibility and adaptability are two of the main characteristics of low-cost and emergency housing, also known as emergency shelter.


In this article, we will talk about this type of housing that provides a quality and useful space to people with few resources, always respecting the environment and using the spaces in a practical and efficient way.

What is low-cost and emergency housing?

Low-cost and emergency housing is a response to possible natural disasters. It is for this reason that this type of building is so common in disadvantaged areas. In addition to providing a quick solution, it must be sustainable, with low energy consumption and designed to make the best use of available resources, as they are often donations with very limited budgets.


Of course, they must meet the objective of any architectural work: to have efficient and attractive spaces for people. They are low-cost dwellings, but they must have everything necessary for people to live with dignity.


Low-cost and emergency housing must look for simple, low-cost solutions to complex problems. In general, low-cost housing constructions have a tight budget, hence the need to look for disruptive solutions. Sometimes this involves new construction, but in most cases it is necessary to take advantage of existing buildings to develop low-cost and emergency housing projects, improving previous conditions.


Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning low-cost housing


The Pritzker Prize is the highest honour in the field of architecture. In general, it is awarded to major infrastructures that are admired by architects for their social nature, able to provide innovative solutions for society.


Low-cost housing buildings can be found all over the world. However, today we are going to comment on a very peculiar one, winner of the Pritzker Prize. It was the work of Alejandro Aravena, an architect from Chile who is known for this important social contribution.


His proposal consisted of efficient, low-cost social housing that is completed by its inhabitants over time, the so-called "incremental housing". His target audience are citizens from the lower classes, who need a roof over their heads to live with dignity.


Aravena is known for his participative architecture approach in which citizens work together with architects and builders to complete the construction process. It is all about dealing with citizens' problems head on, which is why it is so important to involve those who will inhabit them.

Low-cost housing, source: Muhimu

In this work on low-cost and emergency housing, we can see the importance of social innovation applied to the design and construction of works with a social approach, which helps solving citizens' problems. It also shows the need of creating a new design in cities, due to the large migrations to them.


If we have to mention another Pritzker Prize for low-cost and emergency housing, it is Balkrishna Doshi. A 90-year-old architect who won the prize in 2018 with an architecture that has managed to unite dignity, sustainability, culture and community.


In fact, Doshi is the longest-serving architect to receive this award.  He describes his works as "an extension of my life, philosophy and dreams, trying to create the treasure of the architectural spirit", noting that the award reaffirms his belief that "life is celebrated when lifestyle and architecture merge".

Aranya low-cost housing, source: El Definido

His concern to integrate architecture into the daily lives of the people of India, while respecting the culture and responding to the needs of the population in the most disadvantaged areas of the country, has resulted in an architectural work that respects the environment and the surroundings in which it is located, while at the same time providing an innovative solution for the people.

Master in Collective Housing UPM/ETH

The Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing is a professional and international postgraduate programme that is developed on a full-time basis, dealing with advanced architectural design in the city and housing. It is designed and taught jointly by the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH).


The application period for MCH2022 is already opened, and it will remain so till 31.01.2022 or until vacancies are filled. 


For more information, click here!

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