Rioja Housing Complex
Rioja Housing Complex
Buenos Aires, Argentina1969 41,000 m²
In the early 1960s, a group of Japanese architects that included Kenzo Tange, Noboru Kawazoe, and Fumihiko Maki espoused a new approach to architecture and civic planning they called Metabolism. Making extensive use of organic growth patterns, and of tree imagery in particular, the movement represented both a reaffirmation of Buddhist tradition against the encroachments of the West and a practical way of meeting Japan’s vast new demand for housing and other infrastructure: for the Metabolists, modular design, starting from a core construction capable of branching and expanding over time, was the key to creating flexible urban environments able to meet the developing needs of a changing and growing population.
The practical issues addressed by Metabolism were also of great currency in 1960s Argentina, and its emphasis on modularity echoed an already widespread credo. Adopting the organic imagery without the Buddhist overtones, the Estudio de Arquitectura executed a number of Metabolist designs; the Rioja Housing Complex, on a site developed by the Bank of the City of Buenos Aires as subsidized housing for 440 employee families, was the first.
The project’s size and complexity – it had to incorporate commercial space and community areas as well as private residences – gave rise to an architectural solution that is a hybrid of two building types, the tower and the slab. The two elements are completely integrated within a cluster of seven 18-story units, linked by 10 bridges affording both circulation and residential areas.
The design combines high density with a layout meant to foster a strong sense of community. An open site allowing pedestrian traffic through most of its footprint creates a large public realm, while the presence of solaria, decks, shops, gardens, and other services throughout the project’s multi-level internal circulation scheme encourages interaction among its inhabitants. The architecture, unified vertically and horizontally by a three-dimensional promenade, enables passage between any two points in the complex without a return to the ground floor.