Nine Square Sky housing, Chile, by OBRA Architects
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Nine Square Sky

November 2003

Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award Winner

NINE SQUARE SKY proposes a prototypical housing quarter for 152 families in a typical 100m x 100m block characteristic of all Chilean cities. To be developed within policies of subsidized housing currently in place in the country which provide a minimum home with potential for expansion without burdening occupants with debt. The project would offer each family a basic minimal unit of 30m2 and the possibility of doubling that space by adding an occupant-built expansion on the roof. The units are laid out in rows that, by virtue of vertical displacements, allow thru-passage of light, air and people in all directions, creating nine urban gardens to be designed and built by the neighbors.

Interconnected squares, arcades and portals, are possible within the limited budget thanks to standardized construction and a simple row-housing arrangement. The project can be built using a kit of six (6) prefabricated concrete parts. The light sand from the Chilean beaches and the local white concrete will define a palette to match the soft tans of the ever-present Andean horizon to the east. Atop each unit, a terrace, awaits pergolas and expansions which can be predictably akin to the colorful vernacular architecture made of painted wood or corrugated metal, encountered throughout Chile. At inception, the project provides a simple armature for a do-it-yourself environment, a city-making kit for a community of would-be architects.

Although the project could be built in any city of Chile, some aspects of the site are known with precision: the grided space of the surrounding urban environment and the limpid thin air of the Andean sky. These certainties provide guidance for the creation of a meaningfully articulated set of urban spaces which fit well in the existing city while providing a gradation of scale that can bring a person from the extension of urban spaces to the intimacy of the home.