In 1965, Peru's architect-president Fernando Belaúnde Terry began consultations for a social-housing programme that would regulate the unstoppable flow of people seeking an urban destination (in the mid-1960s, the informal city, with its barriadas, seemed to have overwhelmed the "urbanised" part of Lima). Under the leadership of Peter Land, and with the support of the United Nations, the project for an experimental neighbourhood was born; it involved the best radical avantgarde international architects chosen from among those who had a solid reputation for social housing. These architects were invited to participate in the creation of this dense urban collage. All of them had been involved in the most interesting experiments in social housing in the early '60s, for example, Runcorn New Town Housing by James Stirling, the house-capsule for Nippon Prefabrication Co. by the Metabolist group, Tube Housing by Charles Correa, which became a model for the Indian region of Gujarat, or Cité Horizontale in Casablanca by Georges Candilis, who had collaborated with Le Corbusier in Marseille.
PREVI was the product of exceptional conditions. In the 1960s, the population of Lima was growing so fast that government housing schemes were proving woefully inadequate. Instead, people were building their own homes in informal barriadas, which today account for more than half of the city. In 1966, President Fernando Belaúnde, who was also an architect, held an international competition in conjunction with the UN to devise a solution to the city's housing problem. The list of participants reads like a roll call of the 1960s' avant-garde: James Stirling, Aldo van Eyck, the Metabolists, Charles Correa, Christopher Alexander and Candilis, Josic and Woods. These are only the most famous. There were 13 international teams and 13 Peruvian—it was a housing Olympiad of sorts. Never again did so many prominent architects weigh in on the issue of social housing. The profession disengaged, eventually to discover the museum as the pinnacle of its ambitions.
Without malleability you cannot have cultural expression—all you can get is a top-down notion of how people should live