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Verdes Mares Housing


Bruno Braga, Bruno Perdigão, Igor Ribeiro, Epifanio Almeida and Marcelo Bacelar;


Tais Costa


Fortaleza - CE, 2009

* 1st Place - Caixa/IAB Prize 2008-2009 - Professional Category

   Modality 2 - Multifamily Sustainable Housing in Favela Areas.





In the process of this project, it became clear that before trying to propose a new solution, it was necessary to better understand the problem. The more we looked for answers, the more we realized we were asking the wrong question. It seemed more correct to treat social housing as a future investment in the population, which would acquire value over time, functioning as an instrument for the social promotion of beneficiaries, in contrast to the way current housing policies do, in which see the issue as social spending, prioritizing quantitative over qualitative indices.

The error, therefore, was at the beginning of the process, as it was exactly trying to solve the wrong problem. The problem of social housing is not solved just by reducing the housing deficit. Much less denying the facts that the problem presents, such as the characteristics of the population and budgetary and legal restrictions. More important than how many houses to propose, it seemed more appropriate to think about where and how to propose them.

Two main issues then arise to be resolved: the place where the houses will be implemented and how to work with the limitations and restrictions imposed by the problem while maintaining the quality of the project.


Although the city is a collective social construction, its space is not distributed equally, which generates serious distortions in the urban scenario. In the case of Fortaleza, of its more than 2.5 million inhabitants, 30% live in precarious and informal settlements, which is explained by the high concentration of income present in the city.

The chosen intervention area was the Verdes Mares community, located in the Papicu district, which has an excellent infrastructure and a large network of opportunities. The community is mostly made up of irregular occupations, present in the region for over twenty years. There is a strong real estate speculation, being common the existence of empty land that does not fulfill its social function. Both areas (both occupied and idle) are classified as Special Zone of Social Interest, making it possible to think about redistributing the entire population, as area x previously occupied became x+y with the incorporation of empty land.

Therefore, residents could remain in their current place of residence, where they are surrounded by opportunities and professional and personal ties and can transform their new homes into an investment that is valued over time. The proximity to a bus terminal also allows us to think of a network of interconnected interventions, which would have a greater reach in the city.


The implantation of the project sought, instead of creating a closed center focused on itself, to bring the city into the whole and vice versa. This was done with the creation of narrow internal streets measuring six meters, which have parking islands and trees to protect the houses from the sun, since the climate of Fortaleza is marked by high temperatures throughout the year. In addition, the streets allow for greater wind circulation, allowing for greater use of natural ventilation in houses.

To think about the residential unit of this set, it was necessary to work with the imposed restrictions, which meant facing the scarcity of resources as an incentive to creativity and a filter of the superfluous, bringing the proposal as close as possible to the real problem. The choice of a land with good infrastructure and a limited budget for the construction of the houses were the limits that guided the proposal. Thus, it was necessary to know exactly how and where to apply the resources.

The strong presence of commercial activity in the area was also a fact to be worked on, avoiding having different families on different floors, which would favor those on the ground floor. How to make units with two floors without this entailing a significant increase in their areas? Therefore, the narrowest possible unit was sought, giving greater flexibility to the families, including with regard to the subsequent expansion of the houses. Economic growth is often linked to spatial growth. The subsequent interventions of the residents are a reality, and therefore should not be denied, but worked on. Instead of trying to avoid it, the proposal tried to provide conditions for this to happen without further harm to the collective. That is, not controlling them, but predicting them in an orderly way.

The project's demand was that of sustainable multifamily housing in a slum area. However, the sustainability of the proposal appears, in this case, not as an objective in itself, but as a consequence of the synthesis of the factors found and of a rigorous and broad process. When choosing the location, its economic and social feasibility was considered. The techniques and materials chosen were the most suitable for this specific problem: low cost and serial reproduction. In this case, any waste is multiplied several times and should therefore be reduced as much as possible. This was solved through modulation, prefabricated structures, traditional weather solutions and adequate labor available. The soil-cement brick was used for the construction of the houses, as it met these impositions.


The implantation of the complex sought not only to serve the built-up area of the units, but also to think of empty spaces as part of the project. Thus, the population has a strong bond and a great need for common areas for leisure. The project sought to intensify this reality, creating mini-squares, open green spaces and maintaining a sports field widely used by residents. Due to the area's proportions, a civic center was also proposed to maintain its relationship and organization, and an urban-sized equipment, as a way of promoting cultural, educational and integration activities in the area with the rest of the city.

There are two models for the units: a narrower one, with an area of 44.98m², and a larger one (due to the addition of a room on the ground floor), with an area of 51.83m². This is in response of the dynamics among the families in the community, both in number of people per unit and in terms of income, in addition to meeting accessibility standards.

In Fortaleza, the best place to be is in the shade and where the wind blows. You can see these aspects both in the recessed walls in the facades and in the windows with shutters and glass, as in high windows on the walls of the rooms and in the space between the roof and the ceiling, for better air circulation.

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