CINVA – Ciudad Kennedy Housing Complex

In 1958, after La Violencia (Civil War) was over, Alberto Lleras Camargo became the 20th president of Colombia. He was part of the Frente Nacional political party, and had been involved with the OAS (Organization of American States) in the forties. He wanted the OAS to become a multilateral agency by conceiving technical cooperation programs in Latin America; thus, making him the ideal leader for a country in which CINVA could thrive (Aravecchia-Botas, Nilce Cristina).

With the ongoing Cold War, Latin America began to be influenced by communist ideals. Lleras Camargo, alongside the presidents of Colombia and Brazil, thought that the best way to fight the communist ideals was to fight poverty. Therefore, Lleras Camargo demanded American support to create the “Alliance for Progress”, which was implemented by President John F. Kennedy.

In Colombia, the Alliance for Progress greatly influenced housing. Their project was initially called “Ciudad Techo”, a construction plan that would include 5,893 units. Ciudad Techo was described as a proposal for communal action and aided self-help as a means to fight the housing crisis. This was an ambitious project that required as could found, and CINVA’s participation was fundamental. At the time, the CINVA Center director was Rafael Mora-Rubio, he was a lawyer and an economist who promoted public self-help programs. He organized the 5,893 units of the Ciudad Techo housing project into:

  • 1,214 houses
  • 2,285 multi-family apartments
  • 1,032 third part plans: financing was divided between the buyer, investor and construction institute
  • 144 worker’s plans: the company financed houses for their employees

The creation of the 5,893 housing units provided an efficient manner to organize the workers. The project took place on 350 hectares of land between forested areas and was inspired by the “garden cities” movements in Great Britain (Aravecchia-Botas, Nilce Cristina).

For a project this big, communication was the key to success. Thankfully, CINVA was the link between American and Colombian workers. This makes sense since the students and professionals that were a part of CINVA were constantly in contact with Colombian architects, housing specialists, and workers. Their cultural immersion in Colombia and lifelong connection with the United States granted them the ability to link American and Colombian workers.

Lauchlin Currie was one of the Americans that influenced the Ciudad Techo project. Currie developed a model called “cities within a city” which focused on the densification of certain areas to optimize the relationships between housing, work, public spaces, and infrastructure. His model was implemented in the Ciudad Techo housing project, as seen in the plans in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Plans for Ciudad Techo (Aravecchia-Botas, Nilce Cristina)

The Ciudad Techo housing project was so ambitious and successful from an early stage that it caught the eye of the U.S. president at the time, John F. Kennedy. In 1961, President Kennedy visited Colombia and placed the first brick on a house in Ciudad Techo (Figure 4). This symbolized the support the project was receiving from the United States.

Figure 4: President John F. Kennedy placing the first brick in Ciudad Techo (Aravecchia-Botas, Nilce Cristina)

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Ciudad Techo’s named was changed to Ciudad Kennedy to honor him. This represented the change of the relationship between Colombia and the United States, and the regret for imperialist actions that the United States had taken during the Cold War. Also, it represented the change in architectural practices in Latin America through communal action.

Aravecchia-Botas, Nilce Cristina. “Técnica y Política En La Producción de La Ciudad Latinoamericana.” A&P Continuidad, vol. 6, no. 11, 2019, pp. 70-81. Directory of Open Access Journals