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[Elias Redstone] ‘Redstone flew to Argentina to investigate how architects were developing projects following an economic crisis’

Elias Redstone flew to Argentina to investigate how and why architects were initiating and developing their own projects following an economic crisis. Fideicomiso, one of the legal trusts that allow architects to function in this way, has come to represent a business model for architects to develop housing blocks with multiple investors, who are often future occupiers of the building.

While in Buenos Aires Redstone researched fideicomiso buildings and looked at the economic and planning conditions required to deliver the projects. He discovered that when plots and building codes are clarified and standardised, building projects are more likely to be guaranteed. Inspired by what he found, Redstone returned to the UK and approached architects and developers to discuss the feasibility of fideicomiso in Britain.

Where did your idea come from?

A few years ago I was introduced to architects from Buenos Aires who were constructing apartment buildings with funding from the eventual occupiers, using a fideicomiso legal trust. This stuck in my mind as an interesting model for funding projects in a way that enables architects to take the lead in the development of their practice. With the deepening financial crisis in Europe, it feels like now is the right time to explore an alternative approach to homebuilding that provides a model for architects and homebuyers to work together. I am interested in whether such a model might allow architects in the UK to take the lead in developing their own projects, and improve the quality of residential architecture.

Most surprising thing you found out?

In Buenos Aires, fideicomiso is so widespread it has become a common term for marketing and purchasing a particular type of apartment. It is perhaps the equivalent of purchasing an apartment ‘off-plan’ in the UK. People are comfortable with situations where there are often no developers. Instead, buyers work directly with practices to design and build housing. In fact, many architecture practices now market fideicomiso buildings. This positions the architect as both a designer and developer, and resonates with development models in the UK such as co-housing.

Most challenging part of your trip?

The situation in Argentina is very specific, and it was not always clear how the approach to practice in Buenos Aires could translate to a UK context. Not being an architect, there was additional pressure to ensure that my research could be relevant and interesting to the profession.

How do you plan to take this forward?

I am able to raise general awareness of this approach to architectural practice and development. However, its implementation depends on direct engagement with architects and planners. To achieve this, I am keen to initiate an exchange between architects in Argentina and the UK. Architects would then be in a position to start conversations with planners, policymakers and financial institutions.

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