CINVA – Leonard Currie and his Philosophy

In 1951, Leonard Currie became CINVA’s first director. He was a “New Deal” veteran who had previously been involved in urban development projects in Latin America. Some of his involvement included countries such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica where he aided in the development of the airport and in housing, respectively. Thus, giving him the necessary credentials to run the project.

Currie’s methods were geared towards training, research, and education with the main goal of improving housing in developing countries. He thought that it was best for people to learn in their own country where they could see the root of the problem and language barriers were not present. However, access to information is difficult in most developing countries and that presents a problem. To solve this, Currie pushed for libraries and specialized documentation collections to be built in those countries. This goal was eventually achieved and most of the documentation was in the country’s native language, in this case, Spanish.

Therefore, CINVA’s way of working was called “aided self-help.” This meant that the state provided the resources for construction and the community worked to get everything built. However, construction was not the only goal CINVA pioneers had in mind. CINVA’s main goal was closely affiliated with the term “total human environment,” which means that CINVA is concerned with social development as well.

Currie’s views were widely supported. In an interview for the Study of International Housing, William L.C. Wheaton, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Housing Committee at that time mentioned:

“… I would like to emphasize what Mr. Currie has already indicated – that our objectives in housing are not the provision of buildings. This is a hopeless task for any nation to try to do on behalf of other locations. Our objectives are the development of the skills, the local institutions, the business firms, the governmental practices, and the popular practices necessary to enable those countries to build their own houses, their own cities, their own community facilities without our help.” – Willam L.C. Wheaton