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An Overview to our Latest Projects in Latin America

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+Centro Histórico Abierto+city+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+Plan CHA+Plan Encarnación Más+sustainability+technologies+urbanism

During the last year we have been busy with several projects and competitions (including the latest Open Shore project for West Palm Beach) which didn’t give us the time to look back and reflect on some of our projects from the last few years.

As maybe some of our readers know, Ecosistema Urbano has been working on several large-scale projects in Latin America since August 2014 when we won a competition to develop the Master Plan of the Historical Center of Asuncion, Paraguay. In 2015, we accomplished another significant project: the participatory process Centro Histórico Abierto for the transformation of the historical center of Distrito Central, capital of Honduras. We also worked on the transformative Cuenca RED project which acted on the Public Space Reactivation Plan of the Historical Center of Cuenca, Ecuador. After the first experience in Paraguay, we had another project in the city of Encarnación, giving origin to the Plan Encarnación Más, composed by an Urban and Territorial Planning and Sustainability Plan.

In these four cases, the urban issues and the peculiar situations that required our intervention were distinct yet shared many common features. More specifically, the enthusiasm and interest shown by the people directly and indirectly involved was apparent throughout all of the projects, but also the opportunities that these experiences have given us as an architecture firm, to test ideas, tools, and methodologies.

CONTEXT

Although they share the same area of origin, each of these cities has developed unique problems and issues. Some of these, such as the ones found in Encarnación, are physical-territorial matters such as the recent loss of the city center because of the controlled rise of the water level in the Yacyretá dam. That event led to the envisioning of a “Sustainable Development Plan” and  “Urban and Territorial Ordering Plan” in order to prepare the city for the future. In the case of Cuenca, the need for a new plan was determined by a series of big changes underway: the definition of a new model of mobility and the progressive emptying of population that afflicts the historical center, World Heritage Site since 1999, and headquarters of most of the commercial, touristic and economic city’s activities. In the case of Asunción and of the capital of Honduras, the project regards the transformation and the regeneration (both physical and social) of their historic centers. The Distrito Central is part of the development framework of the new urban axis “Choluteca River”.

SOCIAL

1 – Participation

The first of the projects’ common keys are connected with the theme of sociability, expressed in the form of participation. The citizens’ involvement, promoted both through a series of organized activities and through online platforms, has been one of the cornerstones of our work in Latin America. We involve citizens because we believe that the citizen is the only force able to achieve a deep and lasting change in the urban environment and so they should not be just a passive receptor of the changes promoted by the city’s institutions. That’s why in some cases, as in that of Asunción with the ASU-LAB, a space was created which could serve as an interface between citizens and institutions: a place for the execution of the city planning but also an open place where each person or group can drive a new regeneration initiative or attend a course.

Organized activities with the citiziens

Organized activities with the citizens

Participatory activities, such as workshops and events, have been geared to address representative members of the city such as children, university students, “active agents”, citizens and institutions. For each of these categories we have developed, project after project, a series of ad hoc initiatives.

Participatory process in Asunción, Encarnación, Cuenca and in Distrito Central

Participatory process in Asunción, Encarnación, Cuenca and in Distrito Central

For the children we created a “toolkit” with which we had them reflect on their perception of the city and with which they could propose their ideal vision for the city. The kit consists of portions of the city map on which they could draw and that, once recomposed, could recreate the overall image.

2 – Urban actions

These activities were followed by a series of urban actions so that the results could be shown tangibly in the city. In the case of Distrito Central, ideas were gathered in a week of workshops with 80 students from the three major universities in the city and have been translated into urban actions like “Las Gradas de la Leona“. The staircases are indispensable spaces in a city with a very distinct topography as Tegucigualpa. But in the city these vertical connections are often perceived as inhospitable, dangerous, and dirty places and therefore they are cut off from any kind of activity. The students’ work was aimed at legitimizing these stairs as a public space through cleanliness,  decor,  lighting, and the organization of a series of activities that achieved resounding success and participation.

Socialization along "Las gradas de la Leona"

Socialization along “Las gradas de la Leona”

In the case of Encarnación, one of the proposals that has distinguished our approach in this project was the inclusion of a series of pilot projects that accompany and translate into concrete proposals within the “Plan de Desarrollo Sustentable” and the “Plan de Ordenamiento”. Among these, one of the most successful pilot projects was the “Proyecto Piloto Bicisienda“, whose purpose is to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants by optimizing the use of alternative mobility and by raising awareness of the value of sports and recreation. Again we have sought the cooperation of citizens by promoting a series of initiatives (such as the construction of bike lanes in the city) in which the citizens could feel protagonistic.

Proyecto Piloto Bicisienda

Proyecto Piloto Bicisienda

3 – Informative events 

The disclosure of the participatory process to the citizenship, promoted both online through the project’s platforms and through open exhibitions, is a recurring phase in all four projects. We felt it important and necessary that each phase of the process was documented and could be easily accessible to all so that the citizens could be informed about the progress made in the project. Among these, the most scenic event, realized in Tegucigualpa, Cuenca and Encarnación, was the creation of a ” mosaico ciudadano“, a wall made of post-it notes with written words, phrases, and ideas about the city.

City mosaic in the several projects

City mosaic in the several projects

SUSTAINABILITY

Another theme of our projects in Latin America is sustainable development expressed in various forms: care and attention to the environment, the introduction of an alternative mobility system, the importance of education to the environment as an engine of sustainability, and the development of the project made in collaboration between private initiatives and institutional management. In the case of Cuenca, for example, our intervention was partly required as a consequence of the municipality’s willingness to define a new model of mobility for the historical center of the city consisting of ceasing car traffic in the center and building a new tramway system. This new model of mobility has direct implications for the current urban dynamics, as well as on the public space, as it tries to reduce the vehicular load of the city, giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists. This, and the creation of quality public space, led to strengthen the social, economic, and cultural role of the city’s historical center making it more pleasant for residents and locals. Our aim is to activate a historical center that promotes social, economic, and environmental development, as well as a more livable, habitable, and inhabited historical center.

Cuenca’s plan is divided into four aspects: an urban acupuncture strategy, which proposes small / medium-scale interventions to recover areas with potential; a development of a network of active courtyards, by transforming the typical patios of Cuenca in catalysts capable of generating new synergies, connections, and interactions between residents, visitors and inhabitants; a guide to the historic center re-design, which defines the main lines for the design of the public space; a process of socialization, to define the “acopuntura” and the active patios network strategies. The intervention strategy in the square “Mary Corilè” in conjunction with the creation of “La casa en el árbol” is part of the active patios network strategy. This square is an unused and degraded space, perceived by the residents as an unpleasant and dangerous place.

The square "Mary Corilè"

The square “Mary Corilè”

Among the several interventions proposed, such as the re-furnishing of the square, traffic closure, and the design of activities in collaboration with the municipality, there’s also the creation of “La casa en el árbol“, a space included in the existing trees of the square where educational activities in relation to the theme of the environment can be carried out. “La casa en el árbol” is set up as a space to get in contact and be familiar with the nature, built in harmony with the surroundings. Inside there are several “environmental” classrooms in which one can study natural resources such as sun, wind, and water. More specifically, one can study: a system of photovoltaic panels that generate the energy needed for the lights, rainwater harvesting structures, and urban gardens as environmental and ecological experiences for schools and kindergartens. It is, ultimately, an open classroom in which a new form of pedagogy built on the respect for the environment is proposed, in order to increase awareness of the natural resources and of their use, as well as increase awareness of existing technologies.


In the case of Asunción we proposed a strategic plan with ten actions in order to promote a connection between the several parts of the city through the development of spaces, named “corridors“, and of individual buildings, named “urban catalysts“, which might act as drivers of change and benchmarks within the city. The corridors are divided into three types: those “green“, which introduce a new green infrastructure in specific parts of the existing roads; those “civic“, which consist of a new network of public spaces along the roads in order to connect the most important historic and government buildings; those “dynamic“, aimed at creating active urban environments and encourage economic and cultural activities.

Configuration of a charateristic dynamic corridor

Configuration of a charateristic dynamic corridor

Among the actions of Asunción strategic masterplan one concerns the economic and landscaping regeneration of the “Green Active Coast”. Due to its topography, this area is subject to cyclical floods because of the rising water level of the Paraguay River. That forces the inhabitants of the informal settlements who live there to move temporally. While fully respecting the identity of the river and of the existing topography, we have proposed the creation of a green lung with a large sports area in continuity with the Bicentennial Park. We also promoted the integration of the informal settlements both within the urban fabric and in the areas of new urban expansion.

The Encarnación masterplan incorporates within its own name the concept of “sustainability”, since it is composed of the “Plan of Sustainable Development” and of the “Plan of Urban and Territorial Organization”. The “Plan of Sustainable Development” will establish the standards and mechanisms for the growth and for the future development of the city according to the criteria of sustainability. The “Plan of Urban and Territorial Organization” aims at directing the use and the occupation of the territory in the urban and rural areas of the municipality. Officially, the city will face in the next twenty-four years an increase of the population amounted to 62,000 people, for whom it will be necessary to provide a massive increase in housing. The model we proposed to face this need refers to the sustainable principle of “the compact city.” Through the identification of a physical border for the city’s urban growth, we have protected the rural areas from new settlements. Moreover, we encouraged, through private and municipal initiatives, the densification of areas already developed, by filling the vacant urban lots and expanding pre-existing single-family homes.

Example of urban densification

Example of urban densification


The new interventions follow the principles of the bioclimatic architecture: large overhanging roofs and vegetation as protections from the hot summer sunlight, the use of wind to moderate the hot and humid climate of Encarnación, the reuse of rainwater, and the increase of the vegetation to absorb CO2 emissions.

TECHNOLOGY

In all four projects, technology represented an important collaborative tool to promote our work and to enable everyone to be constantly updated on ongoing progress, but also as a support for the participatory process, so that the involvement of the citizens would not be exhausted with the end of the activities organized, but could continue to map needs, issues, concerns and initiatives for those interested.

For this reason we have developed a platform, called Local-in (formerly What if ..?), which has been adapted to each project according to their personality and to the peculiarities of each participatory process, while maintaining a common format. Local-in is a free and accessible to everyone application of collective mapping. In it, registered users can add messages, photos and geolocalised links, sorting them into categories and labels. It’s easily installable and customizable, in perfect harmony with the spirit of the projects themselves, and it can be found for each project under the name “AsuMAP” for Asunción, with the name “Encarnación Más” for Encarnación, as “Cuenca RED” for Cuenca and with the name “Centro Histórico Abierto” for Distrito Central.

 

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What we’ve been up to | Portfolio Review and Current Projects

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+ecosistema urbano+work in progress

We know it’s been a while since we published something in our blog, but we can assure you that we have been everything but idle. In fact, it was totally the opposite: 2017 was a big year here at ecosistema urbano. We had the opportunity to develop a wide scope of projects, from participatory workshops to urban-scale studies, in countries like Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Germany, and even Spain! Let us have a look at the last updates to our 2017 portfolio, and some of the projects that are coming during 2018.

 

Idea Hermosillo

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB/BID) tasked us with the challenge of reactivating urban spaces around the Historical Downtown in Hermosillo, Mexico. For this project, we put in place a brief but intense participatory process involving different stakeholders (institutions, businesses, students, neighbors) from Hermosillo. That way, we were able to identify the key aspects to address towards the revitalization of the city center. The Idea Hermosillo Revitalization Plan consisted of a brief diagnosis, a series of general strategies, and a set of 27 pilot projects which, together, would help reactivating the urban spaces in the area. One of these pilot projects was further developed as proof of concept: the Banco de Ideas, proposing the renovation of an existing building with a creative and mixed program that would act as a catalyst for attracting activity and driving interest about the Historic Downtown.

One of the pilot projects in Hermosillo – ‘Banco de Ideas’

See the “Idea Hermosillo” project in our portfolio

Febres Cordero Mixed-use Building

The Febres Cordero School was identified as one of the key interventions in the the CUENCA RED project in Cuenca, Ecuador. The proposed project keeps part of the original school building while creating a new mixed-used building in side it. The main goal was to create new public spaces and combine local businesses, a civic center, student residences and other uses that would help activating the surrounding area. The new Febres Cordero building also implements sustainable design elements such as locally sourced materials, bio-climatic façades and passive temperature regulation.

Technical design of Febres Cordero complex

See the “Febres Cordero” project in our portfolio

Spielraum – Der Andere Park Competition

In 2017 we were also invited to take part in an international competition to design the conversion of a former military base in Heidelberg, Germany. The City of Heidelberg alongside the IBA hosted a competition for the opening of the -until then- restricted area, and creating new public spaces for the city to enjoy. ecosistema urbano devised a playful layout for the park, concentrating the intervention in the central areas of the open spaces, and integrating the existing pavements and elements whenever possible. The overarching design and pathways of the park were conceived as a “game board”, where elements of the park, such as playgrounds, would become “game pieces”. The program and final design of these elements would be defined by the “game rules” consisting on a series of participatory processes involving neighbors and other stakeholders.

Schematic overview of programs at Der Andere Park

See more about the “Spielraum” project in our portfolio

Thinking Fadura

This project consisted of the preparation of a big participatory project in Getxo, Spain, towards the conversion of a closed sports area into an open park. An urban diagnosis of the Fadura area was made in order to identify the main issues, challenges, and opportunities that the park, the surrounding area and the population currently possess. This diagnosis was intended to inform both the technical development and the participatory process. In addition to this, a social mapping was created by meeting and interviewing all possible stakeholders and representing their relationships, their possible level of involvement and the key topics they were interested in. Over the course of four months, the team conducted multi-stakeholder meetings and presentations to engage the users of the park, as well as to inform and prepare them for the participatory process.

Stakeholder mapping as part of the preparation for the participatory process

See more about the “Thinking Fadura” project in our portfolio

Cervecera – Fadura Community Center 

In the same sports area in Getxo, Spain, a participatory architecture project was commissioned to us, with the aim of building a community center in the place of a public facility which had recently been damaged by a fire. In its final years, the former pub (cervecera) was used as a social facility. In order to create a design that would allow for the same level of engagement and active use, a participatory design process was devised. Three workshops were conducted where stakeholders could take part in the rethinking and redesigning of the building and its surrounding open spaces. At the end of the process, a sustainable and flexible community center was designed, capable of hosting even more activities than before while remaining adaptable to future needs.

Rendering of the envisioned cervecera

See more about the “Fadura Community Center” project in our portfolio

Santa Fe – Resilient Cities

As part of the 100 Resilient Cities program in Santa Fe, Argentina, ecosistema urbano was asked to lead a participatory project for the youth of Santa Fe. In this exciting activity, we had the opportunity to create and run a program which allowed children to get involved with the future of their city. The children were led through an explorative stroll around Parque del Norte where they were encouraged to be creative about what they observed and what they envisioned for the park. Afterwards, the children drew on maps to demonstrate what they hoped to see implemented into the future park. Then they were given materials to create small models of their proposals, micro-landscapes they created using natural materials, sourced from the park itself, in a transparent box. The maps and boxes provided invaluable feedback in order to include the vision of the younger citizens in the future park.

Images of the “participation kits” used for the creation of models

See more about the “Santa Fe – Resilient Cities” project in our portfolio

EU GPP Public Space Maintenance 

In a collaborative project with the European Commission, ecosistema urbano is helping to define the European Union Green Public Procurement (GPP) Criteria for Public Space Maintenance. We are working on creating a guide of best practices that will become the framework for procurement processes regarding public space maintenance. This project will have a big impact due to its scale: the public sector represents 14% of the GDP of the European Union. Therefore, a systematic sustainable change in any part of the public sector will increase the market viability of sustainable products. Our participation in this project will help to augment sustainable change and cost effectiveness in the EU.

Other ongoing projects in 2018

The past few months have been incredibly busy at ecosistema urbano, with more projects happening all over the world. Here are some examples of what we are working on right now:

  • In 2017 we won the competition to become the architectural partner for the Open Shore Initiative in West Palm Beach. We are currently working on the Banyan Hub multifunctional building, as well as the public space improvement of selected passageways. We have recently begun work on a new intervention at one of the key streets in downtown.
  • We started a public space project at the University of Málaga. The project addresses the planning and construction of a central boulevard that will improve the flow of people across the campus, promote sustainability and green space, integrate physical and digital layers of the campus and create places for new activities to happen.
  • We are also currently working with the World Bank in the identification of opportunities for improvement of public spaces and public buildings in one of the most dense and congested cities in the world: Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.

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Cuenca RED | Premio de Arquitectura Española Internacional 2017

Category: ⚐ ES+Cuenca Red+noticias+urbanismo

Hoy tenemos el placer de anunciar que Ecosistema Urbano ha recibido el Premio de Arquitectura Española Internacional 2017, promovido por el Foro de la Arquitectura Española del Consejo Superior de los Colegios de Arquitectos de España —Foro CSCAE—. El premio reconoce la calidad arquitectónica y urbanística de profesionales y empresas de arquitectura, promotoras y constructoras que hayan desarrollado sus trabajos fuera de España, con el objetivo de incentivar y consolidar una marca común más allá de nuestras fronteras que apoye y de continuidad a la expansión de estos profesionales y al sector.

El máximo galardón de la categoría de Urbanismo ha sido adjudicado al proyecto Cuenca RED, el Plan de Revitalización del Centro Histórico de Cuenca, Ecuador, promovido por el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo y el GAD Municipal de Cuenca.

El jurado —compuesto por representantes del CSCAE, Ministerio de Fomento, diferentes Colegios de Arquitectos, Fundación Arquitectura y Sociedad, Fundación Arquia y Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid—, ha destacado el proyecto por su “exhaustivo e ingenioso trabajo previo de investigación y análisis; destacando su aspecto pragmático con actuaciones de pequeña escala factibles a corto plazo y muy detalladas, considerando aspectos prácticos y técnicos”.

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Kits para niños: involucrando a la ciudadanía más joven en el planeamiento participativo

Category: ⚐ ES+Centro Histórico Abierto+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+educación+participación+Plan CHA+Plan Encarnación Más

prova-con-sfumature

Como probablemente hayáis notado, hace unos meses este post fue publicado en nuestro blog en inglés.  Con razón de la publicación de este articulo en la Carpeta Informativa de Abril del CENEAM, Centro Nacional de Educación Ambiental del Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, se ha recientemente traducido el texto al castellano. Por lo tanto, os dejamos a continuación esta lectura para hispanohablantes.

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CUENCA RED en el libro “La participación en la construcción de la ciudad”

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+publicaciones+urbanismo

La Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura y Edificación de Cartagena publica el libro “La participación en la construcción de la ciudad”, y Ecosistema Urbano ha sido invitado a contribuir en el mismo, compartiendo alguno de nuestros últimos proyectos. Hemos decidido narrar el proceso de trabajo, los resultados y la experiencia adquirida en el proyecto CUENCA RED, un proyecto que finalizamos la pasada primavera, después de un intenso proceso de trabajo que culminó en la definición de 6 propuestas urbanas para la transformación de espacios públicos de la ciudad.

El libro ilustra este proceso en más de diez páginas de contenido exclusivo, por lo que agradecemos a los editores y coordinadores Jaume Blancafort y Patricia Reus, la oportunidad que nos han brindado.

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Kits for Kids: involving the youngest citizens in participatory planning

Category: ⚐ EN+Centro Histórico Abierto+creativity+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+educación+participación+Plan CHA+Plan Encarnación Más

prova-con-sfumature

As you may know, in our ‘toolkit’ for the participatory processes we usually carry out in parallel to our urban projects, there are often some materials we specifically conceive to allow the participation of children and teenagers.  As part of our commitment towards inclusive processes we aim to target different social groups in our activities; especially that part of civic society that usually doesn’t have a voice in the collective debate about urban issues. Children have a particularly honest and imaginative look, and trying to understand a society or culture through their eyes is a privilege we keep enjoying project after project.

In particular, during our four latest projects in South America we detected this specific need to involve young population in participatory processes and we begun to design specific ‘kits’ for kids. As a result, we now have four different versions, developed in close relationship with the local context but also with many common features in mind. These ‘children participation kits’ are designed as a series of A4 or A3 paper sheets and they are explicitly designed to be easily reproducible. All the kits you can see in this post were used during the activities with children carried out by ecosistema urbano and our local collaborators in the schools and children’s centers of the city where the projects took place.

The different versions of these kits share the same aims:

  • Incline children and teenagers towards the urban development of their city through reflection and creativity, making them more aware of what is happening around them and improving their own ability to understand and act upon it.
  • Involve both children and their families. The activities in which kids participate —and the results they generate— attract the interest of parents and other family members who otherwise may not have the opportunity to approach the ongoing planning or design process.
  • Communicate the results; imaginative children’s eyes have the regenerative and exciting potential to bring freshness and friendliness to a process people often see as “serious” and complicated. These ‘kits’ allow us to channel that communicative potential.

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CUENCA RED | Escuela Febres Cordero – nuevo edificio híbrido en el centro histórico de Cuenca

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+arquitectura red+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+proyectos+social housing+urban social design+urbanismo

Vista aerea febres

Continuando con la narrativa del plan Cuenca RED y tras haber presentado la estrategia general del proyecto, el proceso de socialización desarrollado y como éste ha influido en las principales decisiones de diseño de las estrategias de acupuntura urbana y red de patios activos; hoy compartimos el último de los proyectos, siendo el de mayor impacto previsto por su escala, singularidad y enorme potencial: la Escuela Febres Cordero.

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CUENCA RED | espacios de prioridad alta (II) cuenca hub y centro activo

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+arquitectura red+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+proyectos+urban social design+urbanismo

 

160708 - FOTOMONTAJES EN CIRCULOS

Tras haber compartido las estrategias para 3 de los espacios de prioridad alta en el marco del proyecto Cuenca Red, hoy presentamos 2 más. Las propuestas, pretenden generar un impulso renovador en estos espacios, para recuperar un tejido urbano social activo que mejore y facilite la calidad de vida y las posibilidades de habitar el centro.

conoce más sobre los dos proyectos

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CUENCA RED | 3 espacios de prioridad alta (I) Acupuntura Urbana

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+arquitectura red+Cuenca Red+diseño+ecosistema urbano+proyectos+urban social design+urbanismo

CUENCA RED 2

Como hemos avanzado en este post anterior, el plan de revitalización del centro histórico de Cuenca, Cuenca RED, es una estrategia a largo plazo que afecta a numerosos espacios en la ciudad. Frente a esta estrategia a largo plazo, y con el objetivo de ordenar las fases de activación, en ecosistema urbano hemos priorizado 6 espacios para una primera fase, estableciendo unas pautas avanzadas de diseño surgidas a través de las actividades de participación, el conocimiento adquirido durante el proceso, así como nuestra propia experiencia en proyectos y diseño urbano.

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CUENCA RED | del proceso de socialización al diseño urbano

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+ciudad+Cuenca Red+diseño+ecosistema urbano+espacio público+networked design+participación+urban social design+urbanismo

Entrevistas a los ciudadanos

En Septiembre de 2015 dimos inicio al proceso participativo Cuenca Red, un proyecto de reactivación del espacio público del Centro Histórico de Cuenca en el cual la participación ciudadana juega un papel fundamental. El proyecto lo promueven la Iniciativa de Ciudades Emergentes y Sostenibles del BID y la Municipalidad de Cuenca.

Hace algunos meses presentamos los resultados de la primera sesión de participación en este post y ahora retomamos el hilo de la narración. Antes de compartir los detalles específicos del proyecto y las estrategias de reactivación de espacio público, queremos compartir los resultados de la segunda sesión de talleres y cómo nuestra metodología participativa se ha ido afinando y sistematizando.

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