in 2016, SO – IL began working with the instituto municipal de vivienda de león (IMUVI) to develop plans for a social housing project in central mexico. now, after four years of design and construction, ‘las américas’ has opened to residents in the city of león. ‘IMUVI, the municipal housing authority who was both our client and partner on this project, has the main task of helping the informally housed population have their homes formalized, so they have access to services. these settlements occur at the fringes of the city,’ florian idenburg, founding partner of SO – IL, tells designboom. ‘in the case of ‘las américas’, we are building close to the city center, with much more services and transportation directly available close to the project.’
image © iwan baan (also main image)
now complete, ‘las américas’ aims to offset the city’s unchecked sprawl, serving as a catalyst for urban regeneration and improved quality of life in low-income communities. ‘IMUVI carefully selects the residents for the project, as they will provide the mortgage,’ idenburg continues. ‘the first resident, who was handed the key during the opening two weeks ago was a single mom and her 13-year-old son. she works in the informal economy, making a living in a nail parlor and selling shirts. she is an example of someone who would benefit from being closer to the city, especially also for her son. currently, as I understand it, they have found residents for about half of the units.’
image © iwan baan
eventually, SO – IL says that project will provide homes for up to 60 families. conceived as a scalable model for urban cohabitation, the design is articulated around two landscaped courtyards, maximizing the plot’s buildable footprint, and even includes parking. ‘interestingly enough, and somewhat unfortunately, we provide 0.5 parking space per unit and most people still want to have a car,’ says the architect. meanwhile, a commercial base forms an important part of the building’s ground floor.
image © iwan baan
idenburg explains that, because of mexico’s climate, the design of the façade could be quite simple. ‘we initially planned to use precast concrete panels,’ he tells designboom. ‘this however would mean that a large part of the budget would go to a precast plant located four hours away, a trucking company, and a crane operator.’ so, instead of using construction components that require expertise and heavy machinery to assemble, the design team worked with local fabricators to develop a modular unit. ‘we developed a simple concrete block which is exactly the maximum weight a worker can carry in mexico, 17 kilograms (37 lbs). this allowed the construction budget to benefit many more people.’