On June 7th took place at NAi the second (and last) lecture of the series “Urbanists Talk”, which this time included the participation of Pablo Allard and Gert Urhahn.
I have decided to separate their interventions to maintain the structure of short entries of the blog, so I will begin with the first of them, Pablo Allard (Gert Urhahn is one of the authors of “The Spontaneous City“, of which I spoke not long ago in an entry)
Pablo Allard is a Chilean Architect and Urban Planner, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Art at the “Universidad del Desarrollo de Santiago y Concepción” and Principal at URBANICA Consultants.
His work is particularly focused on urban infrastructures inside developing communities, with specific emphasis on housing strategies. After February 27th, 2010, when the earthquake and tsunami affected more than 900 cities in Chile, he was named “National Urban Reconstruction Program Coordinator”.
His presentation began with the question “How to make city from a Scarcity?“. Trying to give an answer he began a tour on the situation of the world population growth and migration to cities, which will generate in the future a large number of Megapolis (syncytium).
He spoke of China, which has the means to deal with this phenomenon but is not generating quality of life for citizens while creating these large population nodes.
The opposite than examples as Africa (Kibera Slum, Nairobi), India (Dharavi Slum, Mumbai), or Chile, where there are no the resources that China has, but where, at least in Pablo’s personal case in Chile, reach quality of life is the goal.
He explained the policies of the Chilean government in the 80’s to dismantle the slums (with locations frequently linked to downtown) and move people to the suburbs, where they were disconnected. Such schemes were followed up in the 90’s, creating large areas of housing completely disconnected from the city, without public space, causing segregation and creating ghettos that led to the appearance of gangs.
The government didn’t supply public space for the people and a strong frontier between north and south of Santiago was created. 1,5 million citizens didn’t have any access to public goods.
At this point, Pablo explained the case of the “Big Malls“: Responding to this situation, the private sector began to settle commercial surfaces in strategic areas, transport nodes or edges between “good” and “bad” neighborhoods. This became a catalyst, and cultural activities, sports programs, entertainment areas, began to be added … creating a high intensity of use by citizens who didn’t have this type of space or programs within the fabric of their neighborhoods.
This causes a dangerous situation for the Urban life of the city. Concentrate all this activity at a single point does not help to create connections, break barriers and fight for heterogeneity in the city, but creating these points make more evident where there is a limit, reinforcing segregation. As Gert Urhahn added in the subsequent discussion, the strategy should change, and locate this activity longitudinally along an axis, transforming these points in lines. And this is something for which, as Pablo said, the government must work together with the private sector to achieve a quality shared space.
To end his presentation, Pablo talked about the project ELEMENTAL, a “think-do” in which he worked with Alejandro Aravena to create instant-cities with very tight budget, responding to the need of expansion these families demand and was always solved by self-construction methods.
They created a typology of inclusive-housing, adaptable, customizable and, more importantly, really responding to the needs of people and the place where they are applied.
He emphasized the term “ownership”, creating controversy in the later discussion, but it makes sense in a situation like Chile, where citizens and government have been making city separately and requires a commitment from both parts to move forward, something that can happen when the citizens get access to the government system through ownership of their houses. It will work long as they don’t forget the importance of public space, the true indication of the quality of life of a city.
Something that Pablo showed quickly at the very end, some projects that are emerging after the earthquake, based on strengthening the coastline creating public parks that work as retaining wall, adding spaces that the city lacked.
A very interesting presentation about a country in times of change, in which both citizens and professionals seem willing to take on a strong commitment to develop the complex process of making city.