Sebastian Contreras Rodriguez was an architect in Chile, however after transferring to New Zealand he began working as a housekeeper. Federico Magrin speaks to him about structure being a service for the poor, and the variations between Chile and New Zealand.
Sebastian joins me after a tiresome and proving day at work. He tells me with a pronounced Chilean accent he simply left the resort proper throughout the road. He works full-time as a housekeeper for a four-star resort in Te Aro, although he’s a recognised architect.
Sebastian Contreras Rodriguez grew up in a city on the sting of Santiago de Chile. Since he was a baby, he has harboured a long-lasting love for the calm and wild countryside and despises the orderly chaotic metropolis. After finding out sustainability and structure in Chile and Italy, he discovered a job as an assistant for a non-public workplace of architects. However modelling and drawing plans for eating places and workplaces wasn’t his ardour.
“Structure is a service for the poor.”
Sebastian then based Estacion Espacial, a world group targeted on offering sustainable housing to socially deprived individuals. Estacion Espacial carried out a number of tasks within the Amazon, in addition to in Thailand. The kind of dwelling is straightforward: all the things is in timber and the one widespread function is a sharp roof. Techo is the identify Sebastian picked for many of his housing tasks, which can be the Spanish phrase for ‘roof’. A roof, in keeping with Sebastian, is “a spatial floor that protects from the inclemency of the climate”.
He possesses an anthropology-inspired conception of structure. In his opinion, structure is a few type of life – the uncooked supplies and the weather used – and the lifetime of a tradition. The outcomes of an architectonical effort ought to mirror the tradition it homes and respect the atmosphere. By means of sustainable tasks, the work of Sebastian prioritises the group and realises shelters for individuals who can’t afford one. “Structure is a service for the poor”, he tells me.
Structure is all concerning the society and an architect has a social function: to develop reasonably priced homes.
When Sebastian first got here to New Zealand, he fled South America. He left as a result of he considers Chile to be scourged by mercantilism and neo-liberalism – two economical techniques which can be leaving nothing for the poor – and a rustic the place propaganda-fuelled xenophobia pushes individuals to discriminate in opposition to the Mapuche, an indigenous individuals of Chile. As he sees it, Chile has the flawed angle in direction of the indigenous: they’re left behind and their land is obtainable to the best bidder. He feels Chile remains to be coping with the legacy of European colonialism, whereas New Zealand is on the correct path to beat its troubled previous as a colony.
The Authorities may be taking level on growing residences for the socially deprived, however that doesn’t imply personal architects ought to focus solely on constructing second houses for the rich.
When he arrived in New Zealand, Sebastian discovered an open, welcoming and inclusive society. What he didn’t look forward to finding was a soaring housing crisis. Aotearoa is stricken by homelessness and the sky-rocketing ascent of costs within the housing market isn’t slowing down. Sebastian desires of fixing this large drawback together with his reasonably priced tasks. The Authorities may be taking level on growing residences for the socially deprived, however that doesn’t imply personal architects ought to focus solely on constructing second houses for the rich. He approves of the latest legislation handed by the New Zealand Authorities to restrict the unrestrained energy of builders and buyers.
An individual troubled by social points will at all times be all in favour of a house. The architect should serve the group by answering its social wants. Sebastian speaks of famend architects like Alejandro Aravena and Renzo Piano, whose intentions are to develop reasonably priced homes via basic structure – an structure centred on the groundwork and the inspiration of society.
Working as a housekeeper represents the means to pay his payments and to ship some cash to his daughter, who lives in Colombia. Nonetheless, Sebastian is working alongside a New Zealand architect to develop homes for homeless individuals and Māori girls residing in excessive territories. His newest mission includes constructing a home product of timber and glass, adorned with a greenhouse-kind-of-roof that may management the interior temperature. Inside, a sustainable backyard shares the triangular-shaped techo (roof) with 100 sq. metres of residing area. This “anthropic intervention” is energy-balanced and completely fitted to this local weather.
Sebastian is dedicated to affordability and sustainability. His tasks embody renewable-energy-powered techniques (akin to photo voltaic panels and small windmills) and he goals at offering a house that may operate autonomously, made with low-cost supplies.
Subsequent yr would be the 50th anniversary of the Chilean Embassy in Wellington. Sebastian is collaborating with the consul to current an exhibition in 2022, highlighting the similarities between Chile and New Zealand. On the opposite aspect of the shore – Al otro lado de la orilla might be an excuse for talking about society. Chile and New Zealand are coastal nations bookending the Pacific Ocean. We’ve comparable climate situations and landscapes, however our lands are interspersed by totally different architectural constructions. The exhibition will showcase the works of Chilean architects and New Zealand architects who specialize in timber tasks.
The mental goal of the exhibition is to query the social housing in each nations. Is group housing being developed sustainably for society? Are the Mapuche in Chile and the Māori in New Zealand considered? How are architects advancing rural houses? Sebastian tells me structure, on this exhibition, might be an excuse for talking about and understanding society.
Earlier than he got here to New Zealand, Sebastian labored on a number of significant tasks, together with constructing an orphanage in Thailand and dealing for the United Nations to develop housing for FARC, an ex-guerrilla alliance that’s now institutionalised and recognised as a political actor in Colombia.
“The longer term is indigenous.”
Sebastian thinks there are agency connections between structure and housekeeping. Whereas working within the resort, he tries to grasp how and why individuals select a sure order for his or her garments. He doesn’t wish to look like a paparazzi, however he stays strongly all in favour of individuals’s personal lives. If you construct a home, you determine a relationship with an individual. Throughout his time as a housekeeper, he’s finding out the basic and primitive parts of social relations – the form of life rising in personal areas.
He by no means imagined he would find yourself with this job. He labored as an assistant professor and a lecturer in Chile. “Housekeeping is an sudden current”, he reveals to me. After greater than a yr as a housekeeper, when individuals ask him why he retains his job, he boldly replies: “Why not?”. All through his time within the resort, he has had the chance to find out about hardness and actual life; to grasp what just isn’t superficial and attain a depth in life that might have in any other case remained hidden. In his opinion, a socially-built layer separates the poor from the others.
Requested about society in Chile and whether or not he would return there, Sebastian attracts a comparability between New Zealand and the South American nation. In contrast with Chile’s, New Zealand’s public schooling equips residents for the job market adequately and the minimal wage provides people sufficient cash to dwell with.
In New Zealand, the distinction between the poor and the wealthy just isn’t appalling.
Sebastian needs to spend the remainder of his life in Aotearoa, open an workplace and deal with the social housing drawback. He’s trying ahead to making use of for a resident visa within the subsequent yr.
“The longer term is primitive and important”, he says. Much less expertise and extra fundamentals; fewer city-dwellers and extra indigenous.
“The longer term is indigenous”, he repeats calmly. His dream continues to be rebuilding the groundwork for the group. The primary layer of society, as he calls it. As we half, I’m wondering: is New Zealand’s workforce of 5 million prepared to just accept this immigrant for who he actually is?