1628 image (from mexicomaxico.org)
For some reason I found this week that image of Mexico city in 1628, drawn by Juan Gómez de Trasmonte and conserved at the Archivo General de Indias. A century after the conquest the city is still surrounded by lakes, and the structure of city blocks is apparent.
I also found that image of a mural by Diego Rivera (XXth century), representing the pre-hispanic city. Sure that is not a historical city, but I like the image.
Diego Rivera, National Palace, Mexico (image from wikipedia)
Here is an article (page 20) we wrote three years ago for the Interamerican Development Bank. I just heard that Paris is to present an Olympic Bid in which regional planning would be an issue, so it came back to my mind…
I’m fully aware I’ve just written about this same subject just a few days ago; here it is about a monograph on the recipients of the award since the first edition. As I mentioned, this award has been clearly irregular along time. An award first attributed in Chile in 1971 and kept in hold until 1996 is as if it was first attributed in England in 1978 to have a second edition in 1998; sometimes the debate about ideas is transposed to the political landscape in such a way as to make some matters irrelevant for a time.
I have no reason to doubt of the interest for the Chilean nation of the works of each award recipient, but I will focus on the highlighted works; the first time it was a social housing project, the second one a metropolitan and infrastructure planning experience, and the following ones integrate increasingly sustainable development and public participation.
In 1971 the Housing and Urbanism Ministry of Chile established the National Urbanism Award; since 1996 the Colegio de Arquitectos (the professional board of Chilean architects) is also part of the organisation. The Award must recognize architects and other professionals that have shown excellence, creativity and substantial contributions to improve the quality of life in the cities of the country.
Up until now it has not followed a regular schedule, with six awards since 1971. The winner in 2014 has been Sergio Baeriswyl Rada, an architect who has worked in the Bio Bio region. A public servant at the city of Conception (224.000 residents) since 1994, he has directed its Plan Regulador, which was innovative in using a public participation strategy and a corridor structure. He has been recently involved in the regeneration of the Bio Bio seashore after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami.
Beyond the personal award, that I assume is justified, I will focus on the plans. I have never visited Chile, so what I say comes from an analysis of secondary sources. The Plan Regulador de Concepción defines (according to its bylaws as published in the municipal website, including amendments up to September 2009) areas which are subject to natural and anthropic risks; on these areas any project shall be preceded by a risk assessment, but there is no outright ban on building. This may seem strange to a layman, but it happens in many countries, as sometimes the safe areas are not in a convenient place; just think of Paris, when there are relevant underground quarries that are no longer exploited but create risk situations, or most of England, where floods are common on urban areas. In spite of that, in Europe there is an evolution towards a total ban on building on risk areas whenever feasible, as for instance this is impossible in most of the Netherlands.
The plans for the coastal populations, prepared after the tsunami, define areas in which homes and public facilities are forbidden, and it seems a good measure.
This year the new Chilean national policy on urban development has been enacted. As it has been approved under the now former president Sebastian Piñera, its effective application remains to be seen, but it is anyway an interesting document to understand the country.
As in many Latin American countries, since the 1980s there has been a relevant economic growth with effects for all the population, even if Chile still has clear inequalities. Current urban problems come largely from urban management decisions taken in a rush to solve urgent issues, without enough reflection, something that can hardly be confined to that country. There are positive signs in terms of sustainable development, as the growing share of multilevel housing and the contention of sprawl. But environmental protection and heritage conservation are in trouble, and housing remains, despite all the clear improvements, a challenge, with a deficit of about half a million dwellings in a country of some 17 million residents. Let’s not forget that in 2015 the goal of 100% sewage waters treatment could be achieved, not a small feat for any country.
You can choose the Spanish language version or the English language version
The Interamerican Development Bank has just published a work by Andrés G. Blanco, Vicente Fretes Cibils and Andrés F. Muñoz on the relevance of rental housing for Latin America. The document includes a description of the problems of housing in the region and the potential benefits of rental units; the current state of rental housing in the area; and policy recommendations regarding offer, demand and juridical framework.
Here is an interesting article by Gabino Ponce Herrero on the evolution of the urban planning context in Havana during the first half of the XXth century. It is also the story of the eastern urban extension project, first thought as a private development linked to the new tunnel under the bay, and later developed under the socialist regime in a different way. The economic evolution of the country has made of what was to be a model (and would today probably seem a common social housing project in most of Europe) just an isolated work.
Looking for a recent document describing urban development policies in metro Mexico? Desarrollo Urbano en el DF, by SEDUVI