SoA Lecture: Silvina Lopez Barrera

New south global south
November 8, 2023 - 2:00 PM
Boardman Auditorium, Storrs

Silvina Lopez Barrera is an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at Mississippi State University. She is a licensed architect in Uruguay, LEED-AP accredited, and holds a Master of Architecture degree from Iowa State University. Her research focuses on how socio-spatial inequalities influence informal housing, housing insecurity, and community resilience in the US and in Latin America.

Prof. Lopez Barrera’s field work methods incorporate oral histories and participatory processes to engage with disadvantaged communities. Her research has been published in several academic journals including Local Development andSociety and Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. She has published book chapters in Informality and the City: Theories, Actions, and Interventions ( G. Marinic and P. Meninato) and in Public Space/Contested Space: Imagination and Occupation ( K.D. Murphy and S. O’Driscoll). Prior to joining the faculty at Mississippi State University, Lopez Barrera was faculty member at Iowa State University and Middlebury College. She is member of the Uruguayan Society of Architects and International Associate member of the American Institute of Architects. Lopez Barrera currently serves in the AIA National Associates Committee as the AIA Mississippi State Associate Representative.

She will speak on the topic, "The Right to Housing in the Americas."  

 Over the decades, architects and urban planners have struggled to understand the social production of informal housing and its implications in everyday life. Spatial justice theory argues that social and spatial inequalities stemming from unjust urbanization and geographically uneven development systematically oppress segments of the population, diminishing their well-being, participation in social life, and access to resources. Lefebvre's framework of the 'right to the city' emphasizes the notion that spatial injustice can be challenged by those negatively affected as they embrace their right to occupy and transform spaces.  

In this lecture, we will delve into the social production of informal housing and self-help housing in both Latin America and the U.S. as strategies to confront the disparities and injustices inherent in urbanization, especially in terms of unequal access to resources and public infrastructure. Additionally, we will explore housing typologies such as trailer homes, mobile parks, and barracks-like housing on farms that have profoundly influenced the experiences of generations of Latinx immigrants in the U.S. While these architectural forms may have been initially conceived as transient, they have become persistent over time and often been overlooked in public discourse. This lecture advocates for methods of intervention in informal housing contexts that are tailored to various patterns of habitation, serving as crucial design strategies to enhance the quality of life of marginalized and disenfranchised communities.  

Silvina Lopez Barrera is presented as part of the David R. Ravin School of Architecture 2023-24 Lecture Series, New South meets Global South.

In 1886, Atlanta Constitution editor Henry W. Grady delivered a speech to the New England Society in New York City entitled The New South, boasting of the vibrant economy of urban industrial growth in the post-Civil War South that was replacing the antebellum world of slavery-based rural agriculture. Cities like Charlotte continue to use this phrase to connect their identities with growth and financial prosperity and encourage investment. What was barely implied by Grady and is only just being acknowledged is the structural racism and exclusion inherent in this prosperity. Not only in the American South but throughout the so- called First World, we live in a new colonialism that continues to marginalize people of color and perpetuate inequitable access to resources.

Similarly, the Global South refers broadly to the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania that generally lie south of the Equator and were exploited by European colonization. These regions continue to be treated as opportunities for investment and wealth production, decimating economies and ecologies while continuing repression of local cultures. The economic, political, and cultural marginalization of the peoples and landscapes of the Global South mirrors that of the New South, demonstrating how colonialism and the violent pursuit of wealth continue today.

The School of Architecture's Lecture Series for 2023-24 will highlight research and design practices working to reveal the colonial injustices of the New South and the Global South as well as to celebrate their marginalized peoples and practices. Presenters are working to overcome social injustice by investigating topics such as territory, housing, immigration, race, social inequity, and civil rights. Their works provide insight into overcoming injustices while producing innovative solutions to issues including climate adaptation, sustainability, resilience, integration, and identity at scales ranging from regional territories to building materials.