USINA Centro de Trabalhos para o Ambiente Habitado (“Work Center of the Inhabited Environment”) is a Brazilian working group that works across disciplines to assist working peoples in the planning and development of their own communities. Their portfolio is vast: they work in strategic technical advisory, assist to mobilize public financing, urban planning and advocacy through education workshops and video production.
In their built work, they’ve participated in the planning and construction of more than 5,000 housing units, as well as community centers and schools throughout Brazil. Their video production and advocacy work is intertwined with the built work, all bent on changing our conceptions of how and why our built environment exists the way that it does. They seek to move us away from an individualistic and profit-driven motivation for construction, attempting to reverse the ‘logic of capital’ and produce a built environment that is more equitable and just.
Their work is deeply rooted in the social justice movements of Brazil in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Although the organization was formed in 1990, their heritage extends back to a generation of architects and university students who sought out their own form of education in the favelas and other forms of urban periphery.
The built work serves two functions: first, it provides the schools, homes and playgrounds that are unaddressed by the market. Secondly, it assists in the formulation of local advocacy organizations, providing visible, tangible evidence of the people’s power.