Auto-construction: for an autonomy of housing

Last Tuesday September 4th, 7:30 pm, at Barcelona’s COAC was presented for the first time this new selection of John Turner‘s writings, Autoconstrucción. Por una autonomía del habitar. Escritos sobre vivienda, urbanismo, autogestión y holismo, published in February by Pepitas de Calabaza and edited by Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, José Luis Oyón and Volker Zimmermann.

This selection of works by John F. C. Turner aims to help the Spanish-speaking reader to approach some of his lesser known writings; texts that cover all his life and work but were not yet translated to Spanish, some of them even still unpublished in English. They are reports for international agencies, articles for political press, and unpublished reflections on the process of placemaking, on which the author is still working. They talk about auto-construction, the most known of Turner’s interests, but they extend the main keys of his thought, towards the understanding of his relational view of housing and to a constant holistic reading of placemaking, inspired by Patrick Geddes. This work is the result of long hours of conversation and consultation of his archive and library. The book is closed by a complete bibliography, and three texts written by the editors (about Turner’s biography, about neighborhoods in Lima today, and about how Turner developed Geddes’s ideas).

John F. C. Turner (*1927) is an English architect famous for his devotion to the study and practice of self-constructed housing. Influenced since very young by Patrick Geddes and by anarchism, he studied in London’s Architectural Association, where he developed soon a vision of architecture and urbanism that would not forget their relation with the users.

At thirty years of age he moved to Peru to work in national and international agencies for housing. This represented a complete change of direction in his life. As an observer and collaborator to the formation of self-built neighborhoods in Lima and Arequipa, at the end of his nine years there he completed the development of a holistic vision of housing and urbanism. Between the end of the Sixties and the end of the Seventies he published his main works, such as Freedom to Build and Housing by People, the latter translated into several languages. He published many articles about these issues in scientific journals, and took part to congresses and working groups about housing and habitat all over the world.

His interest for a wide and creative understanding of housing, for the idea of placemaking as a process, is still ongoing. After receiving the Alternative Nobel Prize, Turner keeps working, and thinking that good housing experiences, urbanism from below, and old local community practices are a sure orientation in an ecological path that we shall not wait to follow.

  • John F. Turner, Autoconstrucción. Por una autonomía del habitar. Escritos sobre vivienda, urbanismo, autogestión y holismo, edited by Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, José Luis Oyón y Volker Zimmermann. 420 págs. | 21 x 14,5 cm, published by Pepitas de Calabaza, Logroño.
  • The first public presentation of the book was Tuesday September 4th in Barcelona, at the Colegio de Arquitectos de Catalunya (COAC). More presentations will be announced soon! Here is the last catalogue of Pepitas de Calabaza.
  • Pepitas has just published also Un habitar más fuerte que la metrópolis, by Consejo Nocturno: “To win against the organized loliness of the metropolis means to develop some affective densities and some forms of conviviality that are stronger than all the needs prepared and produced by the paradigm of the government, which disable us and separate us from our own strength” (from Alejandro Hernández Gálvez’s review of the book in Arquine).

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