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In Mexico, Blocks of Concrete Become Practical Starter Homes

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The most distinctive thing about this humble concrete house in northern Mexico isn't at all its looks—there are, of course, plenty of quirkier and even breathtaking concrete dwellings out there. No, what makes this "Box House" special is the process behind its construction. Developed under Mexican architecture workshop S-AR, the house was erected by the very family that would live in it. The building, part of S-AR's Vivex Community project, addresses a disheartening problem in the region: the low-income families whose livelihood depends on building houses for others often have no place to call their own and have to resort to renting cramped quarters.

In the program, families who've been able to secure a plot of land will get support from Vivex Community in the form of building materials, as well as technical and design assistance from S-AR. In the case of the house pictured here, a 32-year-old construction worker from the suburbs of Monterrey, Mexico led the construction of this 1,184-square-foot home for his family of four. With labor costs dissolved, the house then becomes more affordable, with a total cost of about $11,600 for materials and basic blacksmithing and glass installation services.

The structure, built from non-overlapping concrete blocks, has a simple layout, with interior living spaces composed like "boxes within a box." On the first floor, the main "box" contains the living and dining areas, while a side "box" houses stairs, plumbing, and electrical systems. The second floor, which has a façade of narrow vertical "doors" for regulating daylight and ventilation, contains two bedrooms.

· Box House / S-AR stación-ARquitectura + Comunidad Vivex [ArchDaily]
· All Concrete Houses posts [Curbed National]