Building a Stronger Housing Foundation for Peruvian Families

On a mission to disrupt the social housing and urban planning sector in Perú, Sebastián Paredes and Marisol Layseca, two architects and social entrepreneurs, founded MUTUO, an online architecture competition platform that connects architects from all over the world to design safe, low-cost housing.

Sebastián and Marisol first met as students the School of Architecture at Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC), where their vision of helping people build better and more cost-efficient homes began to take shape.

The housing deficit crisis in Peru affects over 7 million people. Of those families that manage to build a home, 60% do so without professional consultation by architects or engineers because they cannot afford it. This disconnect between architects and families often results in home with serious structural or design flaws.

“As a student, I was cofounder of an project that did small-scale social housing interventions in marginalized urban communities,” says Sebastián. “I was able to identify many needs and gaps in the social housing efforts in Peru. However, I also learned that for organizations to grow and have a true impact, they must become sustainable.” He envisioned a more efficient way of bringing social change and involving community members as customers rather than subjects of charity.

Aiming to help bridge this divide and empower families in the process, Sebastián and Marisol founded MUTUO. In early 2018, MUTUO launched its first international architecture contest, CIUDADES[en] VISIBLE 2018with an overwhelming response from architects worldwide. A partnership with UPC financed an advertising campaign on ArchDaily, one of the world’s most popular specialized architecture online platforms, boosting international exposure and participation.

CIUDADES[en] VISIBLE 2018 invited architects and engineers, both students and professionals, to design homes for five families in a low-income district in Lima. 230 teams with over 800 architects from 20 different countries participated in the competition, resulting in 108 unique design proposals for each home. Each proposal had to be designed with consideration of the specific needs and characteristics of each family and plot where the home will be built.

The top eight proposals went on to a final round to be evaluated by an international team of six renowned architecture firms and professionals. With the participation of the beneficiaries, the winning design is undergoing technical analysis for construction, which is estimated to begin in 2019.

Sebastián and Marisol have ambitious dreams for the future of MUTUO and their vision of helping demarginalize families through functional, economical, and inclusive design. “We want to replicate this as many times as we can. We now have enough resources to diversify our business model. Although contests are a great tool to raise awareness and bring change, their impact is limited. We have 800 architects serving five families, but our dream is to have 800 architects serving 800 families,” says Marisol. “We are all about doing a lot with little resources. We demonstrate that small-scale planning can make a big difference and wish to scale our scope to involve entire neighborhoods, towns, or even cities.”