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BUDDCamp 2015: Urban Space 1 – Flero

GiuliaCarabelli24 February 2015

MSc Building and Urban Design for Development students have just returned from the annual BUDDCamp. Over the next four days we will be presenting a series of blogs that discuss what the students have been doing while away, alongside individual and collective reflections about their experiences and observations.

The BUDDCamp is a 3-day design workshop, part of the Urban Intervention Studio where students bring together theory and practice by working on the proposal of innovative design strategies for specific urban issues. For the fifth time, the BUDDCamp took place in Brescia (Italy) in collaboration with the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) Zavidovici, an organization working with refugees and asylum seekers in the city.

LDA proposed four different urban spaces to explore. Students worked in groups and had to develop small, low cost, ‘doable’ design strategies, paying special attention to the narrative, the understanding, the needs, and the aspirations of the refugees working with LDA and of the citizens living in the area where they intervened.

Flero 1

BRESCIA

Brescia is an extremely interesting urban laboratory. It is a small town with a population of less than 200,000 inhabitants where the effects of sudden economic transformations due to global and national crises have been accompanied by shifts in the makeup of the population.

In fact, an increasing number of immigrants have settled in the city, often creating various clashes and tensions. BUDD students were presented with a representative selection of these challenges in order to provide strategies and projects aimed to foster equality and social justice.

Surveys, interviews, focus groups, mapping and transect walks are few of the participatory activities that were undertaken to collectively understand and engage with the spatial and social experience of the sites.

The main outputs of this intensive action-research workshop were a range of design strategies aiming to maximise the potential of these places as catalysts of new social dynamics and development towards urban justice. Students had the opportunity to present their urban strategies to our hosts and to local practitioners and civil society groups thus creating a vibrant platform for sharing their visions and ideas.

Flero 2

URBAN SPACE 1: Abandoned Carabinieri Station in Flero Municipality

The group working on this case was confronted with the specificity of the periferia diffusa (sprawled periphery) and asked to work in the small municipality of Flero, just outside Brescia. Participants had to provide a vision for the decaying and unused “Carabinieri” station; an impressive concrete skeleton of a military station that remains unfinished and derelict.

There were two main challenges: the large scale of the abandoned structure and the fact that the building is partially immersed in a swamp, which has a negative effect on the wellbeing of the inhabitants (such as the invasion of rats and mosquitos).

Flero 3

Is it possible to look at these problems as opportunities?

Ana: “The shared impression among our group was that the municipality workers were very open and flexible for an input to create a vision for the structure that could provide for the well-being of the residents. However, the municipality didn’t seem to be very engaged in a dialogue with the residents themselves in discussing that vision.”

“So” – adds Jiaqi – “we started this program by initiating a dialogue with the local community to actively engage people in the process and to produce a portfolio of ideas”.

“As a result” – add Miro – “we came up with the concept of mixed-use. We developed the idea of creating a strategy that was demand-driven rather than supply-driven, which means that we encourage all kinds of private sectors, small businesses, and flexible activities to happen here in small units of the building”.

Principles for Regeneration

The group developed a set of principles for the regeneration of the area, the use of the building and its social activation. These include: a programmatic diversification of functions and investments; an incremental occupation/appropriation of the available space and the self-sustainment of the reclamation/remediation.

Although simple, the combination of these three principles constitutes a viable and realistic proposal to mediate between the scale of the building and the lack of resources.


Giulia Carabelli is the Graduate Teaching Assistant for the MSc BUDD programme. She joined the current MSc students on the BUDDcamp in February. Look out for reflections from the other 3 case studies on the blog later this week.

Multiple Dimensions of Risk in Lima

ChristopherYap4 May 2014

Every year students from MSc Environment and Sustainable Development at the Development Planning Unit embark on a fieldtrip to a country in the global South. Supported by prior research, the fieldwork synthesises hands-on experience with the skills, concepts, and theories of environmental justice for development.

This year the research aims to understand the relations between water, risk and urban development in Lima, Peru, and how environmental injustices are produced and can be addressed, by exploring scenarios and strategies embedded in the wider socio-political, economic and ecological processes, with the potential for transformative change.

Four case studies: Cantagallo, Barrios Altos, Jose Carlos Mariátegui and Huaycán were chosen with our local partners and offer unique readings of Lima.

The first days of fieldwork have started to reveal the complex structural conditions producing and reproducing social-spatial inequalities and precarious living conditions for citizens of Barrios Altos and Cantagallo in the centre of Lima.

A vacant plot in Cantagallo where the former residents accepted LAMSAC's offer of money to vacate the site immediately (c) Chris Yap

A vacant plot in Cantagallo where the former residents accepted LAMSAC’s offer of money to vacate the site immediately (c) Chris Yap

In Cantagallo, multiple groups, such as the indigenous Shipibo community, live in a high density settlement, directly on top of a former city dump-site. The entire district is marked for regeneration, and the community is engaged in long negotiations with the municipal authorities over their relocation. However the private company, LAMSAC, working in partnership with the municipality to manage the infrastructure megaproject, Via Parque Rimac, is also offering money to families to vacate their plots immediately. Some members of the community have already left their improvised properties, which were immediately demolished and the plots fenced off, to prevent others from taking their place.

For every family that vacates their plot during talks with the municipal authorities, the negotiating position of the remaining families is weakened. Those families that remain face a multitude of socio-environmental risks; unhygienic living conditions and tenure insecurity the most apparent.

In Barrios Altos, only a few hundred metres away from Cantagallo, residents face a different set of challenges and risks. The historic centre of Lima is characterised by its grand, dilapidated buildings. The current residents of the quintas – colonial-era buildings some of which have lived in the area for generations and others that are new to the district, face daily risks from unstable, unsafe structures, land trafficking and forced displacement.

 

Buildings at risk of collapse in Barrios Altos (c) Chris Yap

Buildings at risk of collapse in Barrios Altos (c) Chris Yap

The central location and cultural significance of the district and the quintas has attracted multiple actors with competing intentions for the area’s regeneration. Private sector developers and municipal agencies, such as ProLima, are being pushed to find new solutions for urban regeneration.

The displacement or relocation of residents from the grand buildings is followed by the barricading of the room or building, just as the vacant plots are fenced off across the river in Cantagallo.

A bricked-up former residence in Barrios Altos (c) Chris Yap

A bricked-up former residence in Barrios Altos (c) Chris Yap

Meanwhile, many local private developers are building illegally, without permits, behind the UNESCO-protected facades of the quintas. But whilst the municipal authorities are aware of the problem, they lack the capacity to prevent the developments.

Of greater concern are the cases where private developers have forcibly evicted tenants, or cut water pipes to hasten the collapse of the already fragile buildings in order to acquire the land for development.

The complex reality generated by multiple actors with different interests, capacities, resources and priorities, and multi dimensional realities of risk, are manifested differently in each of the two sites, yet the residents face comparable challenges. Over the next two weeks, students will explore the nature of risk in each of the sites, and the strategies that residents and other stakeholders are adopting to challenge inequitable urban development.

A quinta where the water pipes were illegally cut, forcing the residents to leave and causing the structure to collapse. (c)  Chris Yap

A quinta where the water pipes were illegally cut, forcing the residents to leave and causing the structure to collapse. (c) Chris Yap