Lenka Kužvartová: Research & CV

The One Who Sings Needs to Dwell. Experiments in Residential Architecture in Brazil from the 1980s

Research Area 3: Objects, Traces, Mapping: Everyday Experience of Spaces

Contact: kuzvartova@cefres.cz 

Photo_Lenka KužvartováThe main interest of my research is to explore a) the socially engaged role of architects, b) the possibilities of different production of urban space in the cities of the Global South, namely São Paulo, Brazil.

I am interested in the possibilities and the limits of a socially critical approach of the architects who challenge the capitalist exploitation of urban space and marginalization of the poor in cities. In my Master’s thesis I studied the idea of collective housing developed by left-wing architects during the 1920s and 1930s as a critique of the poor housing condition of workers, state inaction, and landlords and speculators profiting from this situation.

Following critical architectural practice inspired by left-wing thinking I chose to work on the so-called technical auxiliary group Usina in São Paulo, Brazil, which has already been since the 1980s supporting social movements to build housing in a self-managed manner. The self-managed construction is an answer to long-lasting housing shortage in São Paulo and to government housing programs which place the poor at the periphery of the city, where urban infrastructure is scarce. In this self-managed process, the role of the architects is crucial for negotiations with the state authorities and for participative design process with the future resident families. The attempt to democratize the technical knowledge related to housing production establishes a link between Brazilian architects and such European architects as Giancarlo de Carlo, Lucien Kroll, John Habraken and Ralph Erskine, who during the 1960s and 1970s tried to develop participative strategies to involve future users in the design process as well.

My research also refers to the work of architect John F.C. Turner, who criticized state-run programs that tried to solve housing problem by mass housing construction on the peripheries and by demolishing self-built slums. He recognized the virtues of self-constructed living environment of slums characteristic of the big Latin American cities and saw it as a possible point of departure for a different manner of housing production and production of urban space. The Brazilian pattern draws less its inspiration from self-construction than from the self-management of construction by future residents, even though part of the construction works is also carried out by future residents.

The Brazilian self-managed architecture seems to enable the Brazilian urban poor to take part in the shaping of the urban space, even in the small scale, and is a tool to reach their ʻright to the cityʼ in the sense of Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey. And in this process they largely rely on architects’ support.



2012: PhD candidate in Art History, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague

2012: MA in Art History, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague. Topic: Collective Housing After the Second World War: The Collective Houses Built in Czechoslovakia

Research grants and projects

2014: Truly Participate. Self-Managed Architecture in Brazil.
Research grant, Grant Agency of the Charles University.
Main researcher

2014: “My house is also your house”. Collective Housing in Czechoslovakia and its Changes in Time. Exhibition project for the Olomouc Museum of Art, Regional Gallery of Fine Arts in Zlín, Aleš South Bohemian Gallery in  České Budějovice and Regional Art Gallery in Liberec.

2013: Hotel-type houses in Czechoslovakia: the Updated Idea for Collective Housing in the 1960s. Research grant, Internal Grant of Faculty of Art, Charles University.
Main researcher

Selected conferences and workshops

  • “Self-managed housing construction in Brazil.” Paper presented at the International Conference “From Contested_Cities to Global Urban Justice – Critical Dialogues,“ Madrid, July 4-7, 2016.
  • “The self-managed architecture in Brazil approached by ANT.” Paper presented at the workshop Blurred Lines: Working Symmetrically in Anthropology and Archeology organized by Wert und Äquivalent Graduirtenkolleg, Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Ebernburg, June 2015.
  • “Squatting as form of commoning.” Paper presented at Commons conference, Prague, June 2014.
  • “Hotel Type Housing as an Upgrading of Collective Housing Ideas in the 1960s.” Paper presented at History of Buildings conference, Nečtiny u Plzně, March 2014.

Selection of publications

  • “Thinking Symmetrically”, Cargo: Journal for Sociocultural Anthropology, 2015.
  • “Real participation? Architecture is Way Too Important to Be Left Just to Architects”, Era 21 – more on architecture!, 2015.
  • “Hotel Type Housing as an Upgrading of Collective Housing Ideas in the 1960s”, Umění/Art, the peer-review magazine of Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 2014.