CINVA – Origin

In the 19th century, the Society of Public Improvement was one of the first non-profit institutions that focused on the improvement of quality of life of urban space. This society was founded by representatives of the elite society that perceived problems generated by the densification of population in cities that used to have the roughly the same amount of population for over four centuries. The trains and railways were the catalysts for this growth in population since people could now easily move and work in different areas.

The Society of Public Improvement had its golden era during the first three decades of the 20th century. During that time, physical expansion of cities was moderate. However, there was deterioration in communal spaces due to the amount of people and conflicts occurring in Colombia.

After the downfall of the Society of Public Improvement in the 1950s, CINVA was incorporated by the Organization of American States, OAS. This was not as easy as it sounds, it was a complicated process. In 1948, the International Congress was founded by the OAS. While this congress took place, the leader of the Liberal party, Jorge Gaitan was murdered. This created massive protests in Bogota, called “Bogotazo”, which in turn catalyzed the war that was about to begin (Healey, Mark).

La Violencia, was Colombia’s ten-year civil war that ended in 1958. This civil war was between the liberal and conservative parties and most of it took place in rural areas, leading to the death and displacement of many. Refugees migrated to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, to remain safe (Mooney, Eric).

During the International Congress that took place in 1948, more than fifty different centers were proposed for housing and urban development programs. In 1949, after President Truman created the Point Four aid scheme, many assistive programs were developed for Latin America in the areas of agriculture, education, and health. In Colombia, these programs were concerned with democracy and political values. After the realization that the housing crisis was a political problem in Colombia, CINVA was the first center to be accepted by the OAS in September 1951. At that time CINVA was described as:

“… an institution of modernizing, technocratic social reform, powerfully shaped by dominant US visions of what modernization should look like”

(Healey, Mark)

This made CINVA the first OAS institution located outside of the United States. Most housing experts were New Deal veterans or European exiles, such as Ernest Weissman, Anatole Solow, and Jacob Crane. They were the main reason the OAS started to focus globally on housing. The housing experts had been planning strategies, but they lacked the funding and resources, and the OAS with CINVA gave them the perfect opportunity. Jacob Crane’s term “aided self-help” later became CINVA’s main strategy.

CINVA focused on research, training, consulting services, and publications in housing which made it the first institution to do all this. Due to its scholarly involvement, CINVA was mainly operated by a group of students from the National University of Colombia making it the first center of post-graduate studies in housing and planning in Colombia. Their main goal was to build a contemporary rural home with the help of a community and teach Colombians while doing so. Colombia’s climate, culture, education and politics were taken into account when implementing this project. CINVA had been experimenting with different housing techniques for a little over five years where they created several model houses to be constructed, until they reached the desired output. CINVA’s model house represented the accomplishments and uncertainties that were a product of the war. CINVA was not only a game changer for Colombia and Latin America, but also for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East (Healey, Mark).