RUCA HOMES: Eco houses designed for Indigenous people

In 2010, the small Mapuche community of Huechuraba, located on the northern outskirts of Santiago, Chile, embarked on an inspirational social housing project. They worked with architects and sponsoring organizations to build 25 eco-homes that combined Mapuche culture with urban design. The dwellings in Huechuraba are part of the Housing Solidarity Fund, a social housing plan consisting of 415 traditional homes launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Made out of brick, concrete and local pine, the Ruca homes measure 61 square metres over two floors and have slatted facades to let the breeze and light in. The dim and fragmented light is reminiscent of the darkness of the traditional ‘ruka’ shelters the Mapuche made out of tree trunks and branches. The ground floor contains a living room and a large kitchen to provide for the Mapuche practice of gathering around the fire. Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and a bathroom. As well as boasting breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains, the houses were built to face east so that the ancestral tradition of opening the front door to the rising sun could be observed. Away from the houses, there is also a common gathering space, similar to an urban residential area. Spearheaded by architect Cristian Undurraga, the project aims to tackle the cultural decline of Indigenous peoples in Chile. In search of better opportunities, the Mapuche often migrate to urban environments, where they are forced to abandon their traditional values and lifestyles in favour of a globalized Western model. The Ruca homes give these otherwise traditional communities the chance to better integrate themselves in today’s urban structures… and prove that social housing can be both innovative and traditional! If you pay attention, you can catch a glimpse of Ruca homes in the episode on Chile.
Jun 1, 2015
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