340 / Sean Anderson and Tobias Jimenez: La Casa de Colima

Sean Anderson and Tobias Jimenez from Colima, Mexico; “We are [inform]al, a design team comprised of Tobias Jimenez and Sean Anderson, recent Master of Architecture graduates from the School of Design and Construction at Washington State University. We believe that architecture is a solution to a question, and that the solution is a narrative on the relationship between humanity and their environment: what informs the solution is the core of our practice.

Our projects are informed by environmental, geographical, cultural, and social locales, historical contexts, occupants, tectonics, and program. Our design approach rejects the typical, challenges the canonical, and questions the formal. We believe that every question is unique and informs a unique solution.”

Website: http://www.inform-al.com

University: Washington State University

Professor(s): Omar Al-Hassawi

Instagram Username: @_inform_al

Name of Project: La Casa de Colima [a methodological prototype]

Project Description: As architects, we seek to upgrade informal settlement across Latin America, starting with building a new home for an impoverished family in Colima, Mexico. Informal settlements are defined by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) as “unplanned settlements and areas where housing is not in compliance with current planning and building regulations (unauthorized housing)”. Nearly 25% of the world’s population lives in informal settlements and in Latin America, 113 million people, or 1 in 4 people in urban areas, live in informal settlements. The UN, in a recent report on informal settlements, declared that this type of living is “a systemic violation of human rights” as it denies occupants health, safety, and a life of dignity.

With the intent to continue our efforts upgrading informal settlements across Latin America, we are first constructing a new home for the family of one our team members: the Jimenez family. The Jimenez family is living in an informal settlement at the periphery of the city of Colima, Mexico. While the settlement exists on land owned by the family, it is not in compliance with current planning or building regulations. Additionally, the settlement is a hazard to the health of the occupants as it is structurally unstable, does not adequately provide protection from the elements, does not provide security from wildlife or intruders, and is not appropriately tied to city utilities.

Many solutions to upgrading informal settlements focus on providing a resilient, low-cost shelter. While this is an important part of the solution and resolves technical issues, we believe that the whole solution includes empowering the occupants of informal settlements to live a life with dignity. Our goal in upgrading informal settlements and providing a new home for the Jimenez family is to create an architecture which instills confidence in, and provides a variety of opportunities for, the occupants to take control of their own life and be productive members of society. We define this as an architecture of empowerment. We are using an architecture of empowerment as a methodology for the design and construction of this home as well as for future informal settlement upgrades.

Our work is completely voluntary, and we are in no way profiting from this project. In addition, the family we are constructing a house for does not have the means of affording a new home, so we are relying on donations and crowdfunding to cover project costs. All donations and funding will be used to acquire the building materials necessary for construction. To find out more about how we are constructing the home, the materials used, and the overall project costs, visit our website at www.inform-al.com or contact us.