Aqueduct Housing by OBRA
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AQUEDUCT HOUSING

Guanajuato, Mexico
OCTOBER 2002

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AQUEDUCT HOUSING is a proposal for a housing development as a physical expression of collective efforts towards sustainability and urbanization. Each home retains its independence and privacy while engaging in communal rainwater harvesting. Water-the pragmatic element for survival-becomes emblematic of a form of cooperation that engenders community. The built architecture is a shared means of reinforcement of a defined form of social interaction, a physical model of a community effort. Seeking to overcome prevailing modes of suburban development whereby the primacy of the private renders the public as a series of incoherent and disjointed residual spaces, here public and private are joined as an integrated whole whereby interior of the house is simply the counterpart of exterior public space, materializing in the presence of its curved mass.

The town of Guanajuato is 2000 meters above sea level, built along the banks of the Rio Guanajuato. Constant flooding from the river forced the settlers to re-route the river, and the government built arches over the original riverbed and paved them over. These massive 17th century structures hold parts of the city overhead along this old riverbed. Located on 74 acres outside of Guanajuato, the site's existing small valleys once had potential to return water to human use and the ground through small dams. Existing valleys are preserved and integrated as urban parks, where peach and orange trees, mesquite fields and eucalyptus groves can be planted. Alternating with townhouse quarters on the hills, these valley parks create an urban topography whereby green space is defined and configured as an integral presence interlaced with the residential fabric.

At the end of each row of Water Collector Townhouses, water is gathered and directed to cisterns via an aqueduct which defines a covered park walkway below, the Urban Promenade. This promenade forms a ring of shaded paths connecting housing rows around the parks, providing areas that can be utilized for outdoor markets or simply as shaded places to rest at the edge of the park. Water is collected in large underground cisterns below the town plazas surrounded by apartment units with stores and community spaces on the ground floor. Cistern apartment houses are part of larger complexes within the urban plan of social centers. The cistern housing forms a structure which, circling in on itself, defines both an urban space with plaza, stores, local commerce and activity and the underground cistern itself where water is stored.

The different housing prototypes suggest variation in urban lifestyle, with water collector housing composed of more privatized units within natural yet distinct land plots and cistern housing for a more urban clustered arrangement of living. Home expansions are defined by adding walls to already-built roofed terraces, minimizing necessary construction expertise and allowing inhabitants to execute their own expansions.