A local architect’s thoughts on Casita Linda and its national design competition
By Alfredo Castrejón Madrid
In the second half of the ‘80s, after spending some time trying to decide what career to study, whether arts or architecture, I decided to enroll in the school of architecture at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). While visiting the faculty at University City in the south of México City, I found a workshop where they teach architecture, linking design exercises and projects to reality and social needs, something that really appealed to me because it was an opportunity to learn by actually building, in most cases, the designed projects.
In this architecture workshop, I learned to come up with a solution to any architectural design challenge, and they taught me that to solve housing needs is not only important to the formal part of the design, but also the functionality, and thus I learned that a home is a basic necessity to which most of us have had access, and virtually none of us who were born with this need solved (a house), realize how important it is and what it can mean for those who do not have it.
Throughout the years I have had the opportunity to design and solve housing needs in a wide variety of conditions for each project and experienced the satisfaction of my clients when the project is completed. However, I am convinced, as an architect, that being able to meet the housing needs of someone who otherwise could not provide an appropriate home for their family must be one of the most rewarding experiences for a designer or a builder.
Very recently I had the opportunity to know of and become a member of an association dedicated to providing houses for families around San Miguel de Allende — not only to build a home for them, but to give them the opportunity to have a better future.
Casita Linda, with its board of directors and a large group of volunteers, has been concerned with raising funds to build a basic home for selected families in extreme poverty, but has also generated a way to integrate families into communities and teach them about the use and maintenance of these buildings.
As an architect, I look at the project in its social aspect, but also can analyze its built prototypes. I believed that Casita Linda had already managed to come up with the right type of construction to cover their families’ basic need for housing, plus a design that is the most appropriate, based on cost and sustainability. So it has given me even more of a good surprise to know that Casita Linda believes that the houses can still be improved. This of course speaks of the real spirit of service within this organization and its leaders. They have the vision to provide their beneficiaries with the best solution imaginable by launching a national architectural competition, looking for new prototypes with even better solutions in design, cost and sustainability.
Yet the solution is not as simple as it would seem. Because of the small size of each house, entries will require ingenuity, knowledge and skill from every participant. I am sure that this invitation to designers and architects will create nationwide interest and proposals will present innovative and fresh ideas. These designs will generate wellbeing and improve the future for the poor but lucky families with a Casita Linda house in their future.