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USINA Centro de Trabalhos para o Ambiente Habitado (“Work Center of the Inhabited Environment”) is a cross-disciplinary Brazilian group that assists working people in the planning and development of their communities.

Founded in June 1990 by a multidisciplinary working group as a technical advisory to social movements, Usina has since worked to mobilize processes that engage the workers’ own capacity to plan, design, and build, mobilizing public finances to aid the struggle for urban and agrarian land reform. Today, their portfolio is vast; they conduct strategic technical advisories, assist in the mobilization of public financing, and conduct urban planning as well as advocacy through educational workshops and video production.

Usina has participated in the planning and construction of more than 5,000 housing units and additionally, community centers, schools, and preschools in several Brazilian cities and rural land settlements, mostly in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Paraná. The built work serves two functions: first, it provides the schools, homes, and playgrounds that are unaddressed by the market. Second, it assists in the formulation of local advocacy organizations, providing visible, tangible evidence of the people’s power. Usina has also participated in the development of urban planning projects, and slum urbanization, and aided in the formation and organization of cooperatives.

In recent years, Usina has extended its activity to include the visual arts by producing videos, exhibition projects, and popular education workshops — all of them linked directly or indirectly to its work in planning and constructing the inhabited environment. Video production and advocacy are intertwined with the built projects; all are bent on changing conceptions of how and why the built environment exists the way that it does. They seek to move away from an individualistic and profit-driven motivation for construction and attempt to reverse the “logic of capital” to produce a built environment that is more equitable and just.