From German siedlungen to Le Corbusier's “Ville radieuse”, modern architects set out to make construction processes more affordable in order to democratize access to housing, to sunlight, to clean air and to vegetation. In this utopian endeavor, twentieth-century urbanism approached the residential question from a merely industrial approach, based on the mass production of large and stand-alone blocks and towers, a model that supposedly optimized the speed and economy of construction. As in the case of Taylorism-Fordism and mass production, this paradigm shift led to the loss trade and craft guilds with a long tradition. Master builders, bricklayers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and plumbers had to leave behind their skills and give up their control of the final product in order to become simple laborers in assembly lines that were in the hands of engineers and large companies.
The new system effectively cheapened production costs and was thus supposed to make consumer goods such as cars or houses more affordable for the working class. But in fact, the system did not take into account the enormous ecological and economic external factors that threaten coexistence and the survival of the planet today. In the process of building the modern city, urban corruption and property speculation have proliferated, with the concentration of land and the means of production in very few hands. The technical innovations that made construction cheaper in order to make housing more affordable were perverted by processes of concentration of power and wealth that have made housing an expensive financial commodity. The energy costs of concrete production and of dispersed cities based on motorized mobility and spatial segregation are devastating. Modern urban developments separate the rich from the poor, places of residence from those of production or consumption. On a large scale, this has led to disastrous geopolitical consequences and the emission of large quantities of greenhouse gases that fuel increasingly irreversible climate change.
At this point in the 21st century, we must learn to make cities again. Cities require affordable housing, but not at the expense of the quality of the urban fabric. The production of the city can be efficient and remain within reach of "small hands". The ATRI strategy is committed to a constructive system that redistributes wealth and opportunities among the many "small hands" that make up a healthy urban fabric. The system of dry construction will actively draw on the capacities of diverse workers and residents themselves. Building industry professionals have been hit by the housing crisis of recent years in a particularly dramatic way, and ATRI gives them an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills. At the same time, the participation of residents in the construction process will have multiple advantages. On one hand, it will lower the costs of construction and make it possible to build a greater number of homes. On the other, it will allow them to participate in decision-making processes about the design of their own homes. Finally, it will encourage collaboration between future neighbors, building teams and reinforcing the social fabric before the work is finished. The ATRI system also advocates construction consistent with the environmental challenge. The production of prefabricated elements will mainly use wood and recycled steel to obtain self-supporting, efficient modules that result in fast, economical, light, reversible configurations.