Mariana Estevao

Ashoka Fellow
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Mariana Estevao was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Mariana is creating a new brand of architecture in a country where low-income families do not have access to materials and equipment for housing. The Arquiteto de Família (Family Architect) project seeks to deliver technical assistance in project design and home improvement to promote healthy housing to a portion of the population that would customarily see such benefits as a luxury. The households targeted by Mariana’s initiative have no means of accessing technical assistance, skilled manpower, or financial resources to improve or renovate their homes, which often remain half-built, posing a myriad structural threats to their dwellers. As a means of promoting a better quality of life, Mariana’s methodology tries to eliminate the poor conditions of the building that damage health and endanger the safety of the family. Furthermore, she is changing the architectural approach to focus on homes and spaces inside the house as opposed to just urbanization and improvement of public spaces.

Arquiteto de Família uses a personalized approach in which architects meet with each family to discuss what changes need to be made in the house and what the household priorities should be. Beyond reestablishing the social function of the architect as a guarantor of the quality of the living space, Mariana is creating new means of making building materials available for people with incomes lower than Brazilian minimum wage levels (approximately US$933/month) to access the resources needed for quality housing. For instance, to overcome high price barriers in the construction industry, Mariana has built a new marketplace based on the principles of Fair Trade using Tetra Pak cartons (juice and milk cartons) as currency. These cartons become new building materials: roof tiles that heat up the space more efficiently than the asbestos tiles that are present in approximately 50 percent of Brazilian homes.

Mariana’s method is not about imposing an outsider’s view but rather educating the family about their health and well-being. Ultimately, the engagement with the Arquiteto de Família team helps nurture closer, stronger bonds within the family and helps sensitize them to better use their personal space. Mariana has plans to expand her work throughout Brazil and in other low-income communities around the globe.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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