"Urban Developments & Initiatives" category
Winning project: Elemental, Santiago (CL), for “Pres Constitution” – sustainable reconstruction master plan
Draws from empirical evidence and existing knowledge from the recent tsunami | Resilience to multiple kinds of environmental disasters | Participatory design secures successful implementation and project longevity | Use of forests as environmental infrastructure for disaster mitigate | Re-establishes public access to the waterfront and creates additional public spaceson
In 2010, an 8.8 Richter scale magnitude earthquake hit Chile. We resisted the earthquake well but not the tsunami that came with it. Almost 500 people died. After the natural catastrophe, we were given a 100 days to come up with a strategy of how to rebuild the city of Constitucion, located 400 kilometers south of Santiago, which was almost completely destroyed.
The design process had to be participatory. For us, participatory design is not co-designing but asking people to precisely define their needs and focus on establishing priorities. Most importantly, the community had to feel empowered to exert pressure on the authorities during implementation. All major changes in cities occur over a period of time that is longer than the terms of political administrations. By being involved, residents can guarantee that the next administration implements the agreed design for the city.
One critical question was how to best protect the city against future tsunamis. Our strategy, was that instead of resisting the energy of nature, we should dissipate it: a geographical answer against a geographical threat. We proposed planting a forest to protect the city from tsunamis. For this approach, we had not only mathematical models and laboratory tests, but also empirical evidence. When the waves first hit Constitución, they were 12 meters tall; a forested island to the north of the city dissipated their energy and, by the time they reached the city center, they were only 6 meters tall. Our idea was therefore to protect the city by redeveloping the riverfront with trees. This alternative was the most challenging, politically and socially, because it required the city to expropriate private land.
People voted for the third one citing three reasons: public forest would increase access to the river (before, the plots around the river were, at that time, privately owned, making the river inaccessible to most people). Residents argued that there was a lack of public space in the city. Before the tsunami struck, there were only 2.2 square meters of public space per person, with riverfront forest that would increase to 6.6 square meters. Finally, people said that, though the next tsunami might not happen for a long time, the city would surely flood each winter because of the rain. Soo for them, the other alternatives, particularly the second, would further exacerbate the problem of flooding.
Studio and Copyright:
Elemental, Santiago de Chile