USINA Centro de Trabalhos para o Ambiente Habitado (“Work Center of the Inhabited Environment”) is a cross-disciplinary Brazilian group that assists working peoples in the planning and development of their communities. Their portfolio is vast; they conduct strategic technical advisories, assist in the mobilization of public financing, conduct urban planning as well as advocacy through educational workshops and video production.
In their built work, USINA Centro has participated in the planning and construction of more than 5,000 housing units plus community centers and schools throughout Brazil. The built work serves two functions: first, it provides the schools, homes and playgrounds that are unaddressed by the market. Secondly, it assists in the formulation of local advocacy organizations, providing visible, tangible evidence of the people’s power.
Video production and advocacy is 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.
Their work is deeply rooted in the Brazilian social justice movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Although the organization was formed in 1990, their heritage extends back to a generation of architects and university students who sought out their own form of education in the favelas and other sources on the urban periphery.