Saturday, October 17, 2009

Puerto Madero

So I arrived in Buenos Aires last week, but haven't had easy access to the web, until I found this cafe near my apt with wifi. I can now start updating this blog. The Villa 31 topic is a very difficult one here. It is very dangerous to visit the site without dying or becoming disfigured. The best option I've been given is to speak to the Catholic Church. Apparently there is one in Villa 31, and they respect the priest very much, so that is the best way to get on the site so far, but even like that, it is still very dangerous.
On the other hand, I've spent most of my time so far exploring the different neighbourhoods in the city, some are fairly safe to walk around, and others not so much. The photo posted here is of the Puerto Madero neighbourhood; it is the former port of the city, now mostly converted into expensive apartments, offices, and expensive restaurants. Since it is a port, the whole area is under the guard of the Argentine Navy, so it is a very safe area to walk around at any hour. The photo shows Calatrava's Puente de la Mujer (Woman Bridge), and the other side of the dams, of which there are 4 in total. The building at the other end of the bridge (with the silos) is very interesting. It is an abandoned building, in need of quite a bit of repair. It's in a very prominent location, directly in line with the Puente de la Mujer, which is also in line with the Casa Rosada (Pink House), which is the Argentine equivalent of the White House. The abandoned building is completely surrounded by the expensive apartments, offices, and restaurants that I mentioned, and behind it in this photo is a really nice park (photo to come) and the ecological reserve. Next week, when I visit the UBA school of architecture, I will ask someone about this building... someone there should know what it is or will be.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Abstract - Take 1

The dramatic demographic shift from rural to urban societies in the last century has placed tremendous strain on rapidly growing cities in developing countries. Housing programs worldwide have struggled to cope with the demands presented by mass immigration, in most cases resulting in the formation of unplanned communities. From Mumbai to Caracas to Buenos Aires, the presence of unplanned communities has created a series of social problems. Governmental reaction has ranged anywhere from eradication to complete integration. However, residents of unplanned communities continue to live with social prejudices and without basic infrastructural services.
With an estimated one billion people living in squatter communities today, the question of eradication or integration becomes increasingly important. This thesis will focus on Villa 31, an unplanned community of approximately 40,000 in the centre of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Located on some of the country's most expensive real estate, residents of Villa 31 are subject to discrimination within the context of everyday urban life. Through an appropriate small-scale intervention that interacts with both the formal and the informal, this thesis will try to alleviate the social polarization that separates the two interwoven cities. The intervention presented can be highly programmed or highly malleable, but must be able to bridge the physical and psychological gap between both ends of the social spectrum. In doing so, it must work towards the recognition of the informal by the formal as a critical piece of the urban network, while encouraging the recognition and acceptance of the formal by the informal. By encouraging the ongoing radication of Villa 31, the goal is to provoke self-improvement among the whole community. The thesis will act as a case study for the implementation of the informal in the city of the future, and will continuously ask the question, can the informal be formal?