CINVA – Action & Impact in Urbanization

The actions taken by CINVA to modernize Colombia were original. The organization was formed by housing experts from all over the world, which included architects, engineers, sociologists, among others. This would allow an exchange of ideas and thus the development of great housing, infrastructure, and new technology.

“Colombia became a laboratory for ambitious programs of state-led modernization.”

(Healey, Mark)

CINVA’s early years were operated from offices in Universidad Nacional in Bogota. Later, in 1953, the CINVA Center building was finished. Designed by Guillermo de Roux and CINVA staff, the center was described as an “elegant concrete work”. The building was laid out around a courtyard, and had ample offices as well as spacious labs.

During its early years, CINVA was primarily involved with training and experimentation. There was scientific exchange between their members and professors, and they offered direct consultation to government agencies. CINVA also offered a one-year graduate course whose curriculum was built around a six-month long field project. This made CINVA the first institution to offer a graduate course in Colombia (Healey, Mark). Leonard Currie, the center’s first director mentioned that at CINVA the

“… research program is carried forward in the field, in the workshop, the laboratory and the library”

(Healey, Mark)

This made CINVA an institution that was shaping a generation of young people and government workers by sharing knowledge both during and after a civil war.

As time went by, CINVA’s members realized that the countryside in Colombia desperately needed help, thus CINVA started getting involved in rural housing. One of the first projects was in front of the Cauca River in 1954. Colombia’s civil war was going on at the time; however, CINVA’s work in front of the Cauca River was a success since everyone in the community were of the same political party. This unity minimalized violent conflicts and allowed the peaceful development of that area. After their experience in front of the Cauca River, CINVA started focusing on areas of the country where the armed conflict was less prominent (Healey, Mark).

Two of CINVA’s main leaders were the Argentinian architect Ernesto Vautier, and the Colombian sociologist Orlando Fals Borda. Vautier and Fals Borda were great leaders that allowed CINVA’s goals to be met. Vautier’s main interest was comprehensive planning. He was known for the design of a sugar plantation which won several prizes, and for multiple articles that were published in the literary magazine Martin Fierro. His ideals were described as “polemical” and initially did not go hand in hand with CINVA’s. However, Vautier’s architectural approach changed as his concerns in Argentina rose. On the other hand, Fals Borda’s main interest was the change of rural lives through modernization. He was raised in Barranquilla and studied Sociology on a scholarship. Fals Borda further continued his studies and earned both a Masters degree and Doctorate. His ideals were in line with those of CINVA, and after his work in CINVA was done he established Sociology as a major for the first time in the Universidad Nacional in Colombia and became head of the department. Both Fals Borda and Vautier were also deeply invested in the development of the CINVA-RAM block press created by Chilean engineer Raul Ramirez (Healey, Mark).

As seen, CINVA had minimal involvement on large-scale housing projects. Instead, their actions were mostly focused on rural development and urbanization. This made CINVA’s impact in urbanization huge since, 95% of Colombian homes had dirt floors, 98% did not have latrines, and almost every single home had a shortage of running water. With CINVA’s help, these percentages did not only decrease dramatically, but Colombian citizens were left with the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a working household. (Mooney, Eric).