Casa Caja : S-AR + Comunidad Vivex

Comunidad Vivex is a non-profit organization founded by S-AR (a collaborative architecture studio based in Monterrey-Mexico). Their main objective is to make possible the access to architecture for low-income families based in a collaborative design process, planning and social work. Another purpose of the organization is to provide basic infrastructure to those Institutions that offer social support to poor or vulnerable communities. The Casa Caja (Box House) was developed under the methodology for social projects of Comunidad Vivex program.


Text © S-AR | Photography © Alejandro Cartagena

Casa Caja 12


Casa Caja 13


This project tries to create a competitive and viable house typology for low to middle income families. The plot is located within a sub-urban area of General Zuazua in Nuevo Leon State. It has a standard measure of 7m x 15m. The local government and most of the real state developers in the area set this measurement. As a social architecture project, the construction methodology pursues an active participation of the future users, as happen with the householder to be a constriction worker. This way they start setting roots, being responsible and committed with the development of the project.


Casa Caja 14


The families that are being supported by Comunidad Vivex are families with one or more members related to the construction work. These make it simpler to understand and execute the projects. Paradoxically, it happens to be very common that a construction worker doesn’t own a house and have to pay rent to have a place to live with his family. Many of the times, this place doesn’t have enough space, lighting, ventilating or salubrious conditions. These laborers are a very vulnerable sector in the mexican society because of the instability of the trade. They are constantly moving from one construction to another, from one boss or company to another, making it almost impossible to save money or be prospects for a loan of the government’s housing program.


Casa Caja 15


Casa Caja 16


Casa Caja 17


How does the communitarian and participative methodology works?


Comunidad Vivex as a non-profit organization provides the construction material through different sponsors and the technical consultancy from the designers of the house (S-AR in this case). The benefit family owns a terrain and together with his co-workers, family members and friends contribute with the labor week by week. As a consequence the cost is reduced significantly and the value of teamwork is enhanced in the family. The construction process is in deed a didactic process that generates knowledge and comprehension of principles and values. By building their home manually, the family can learn new trades that improve their skills so they can make more money in the future.


Casa Caja 18


Casa Caja 19


From the beginning weekly meetings are planned among the involved. The family is an active member of the design process and the supervision of the construction. Jesus Galvan is a 32 years old construction worker. His couple Norma Alicia, his older son Jesus Alejandro and her little daughters Yareli Guadalupe and a Kelly Yojana complete the family. Over the years they have lived in a room they rented to an acquaintance. Thanks to his work, two years ago he started to pay for an own plot in the Zuazua community, on the outskirts of the metropolitan area of Monterrey were he usually works. He is still paying for it, but he is almost finished. This project has facilitated Jesus Galvan’s family to have their own house. This will give them a quality space that may help the development of his family and the achievement of other goals such as health and future education.


Casa Caja 20


Casa Caja 22


Cost / Time


The cost of the house including the donated materials and workforce for the metalwork and glasses is about US $11,600. With the consultancy given to him, he was able to do the electric and plumbing installations, carpentry, foundations, structure, walls, slabs, some metalwork, placing the glass, painting, and waterproofing for the house. This experience also gave him a professional growth. The project is a two-storey house of 110 m2 of construction; with the option of growing in the future. The time of construction in this kind of projects is larger than a common construction, because the workforce entirely depends on the free time and will of the family. Regularly is 1 or 2 days a week that they can work so they can continue with their daily activities and permanent work. Time is also influenced by the in-kind donations and money received for the non-profit organization.


Casa Caja 21


Casa Caja 24


Casa Caja 25




The house is defined like a box containing other boxes inside. The first box is placed in the middle of the plot, with a side left without construction. This generates a side yard that brings natural lighting and ventilation to the house. At the same time this free space can be used like an expansion for social activities defined by the first floor of the house. One room is placed in the ground floor, now days it’s used by the older son and in the future by the older parents.The dinning and living room are located in the free space of the first floor. The stair box leaves some free space where the furniture of the living room and kitchen can be stored. Productive activity as groceries store or another commerce could be run in this space.


Casa Caja 23


A lateral box is placed in the other side and stores the hydro sanitary and electric installations and also the stairs.The private area is located in the second floor with a family room and two independent rooms. One side of this level has an enclosure made by doors allowing the user to regulate the privacy, lighting and ventilation in the rooms. Opposite to this, a more open enclosure in the lower level is linked with the side yard. The house is build with concrete blocks that are not overlapped so it had to be reinforced. Reinforced concrete slabs are light-weighted with clay blocks. The enclosures are made of wood and glass with wooden bars. The house is proposed as a permanent housing in a habitable stage with the facility for future improvement.

Project: Casa Caja.
Construction: Mr. Jesus Galvan, co-workers, friends and family.
Architects: S-AR + Comunidad Vivex
Web site: /
Location: Monterrey, Mexico
Project Team: Cesar Guerrero, Ana Cecilia Garza, Carlos Flores, Maria Sevilla.
Contributors: Alejandra Rivero, Silvia Rodriguez, Berenice Reyna.
Program: Single-family Social Housing.
Client: Galvan Martinez Family.
Construction area: 110 m2.
Project year: 2010
Construction year: 2010-2013
Photographs: Alejandro Cartagena


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