How to Bring Infrastructure to the People Without Access to it

18:22
Rio
3 December 2014 | Originally published on Geospatial World
Urban infrastructure has in the past years attracted plenty of innovation and investment. We have experienced how digital technologies have built up smart cities, how building information modelling (BIM) has improved coordination work in the construction of infrastructure, and how new financial vehicles, such as crowd funding, are democratising these once exclusive investments.
Cities have come a long way. Places like Rio or Madrid now have state-of-the-art operations centres to monitor 24/7 municipal logistics, from traffic control to weather analysis. They are brilliant assets for towns but city dwellers are often left wondering as to how these will help them. In a place like Rio, where inequality, lack of sanitation and soaring consumer good prices are common place, it is understandable that people fail to appreciate the advantages of an operations centre – the most tangible service it seems to provide is helping citizens find shelter during rainfall!
Rio Operations Centre, COR

People want their needs to be understood and addressed. Last April, in a Resilient Cities panel discussion at the World Urban Forum in Medellín, the audience overwhelmingly questioned the purpose of investing in preparing cities for a potential natural disaster that may actually never happen. “Why not invest this money in the people? Isn’t the purpose of a city to make its citizens happy?” asked Juán Martín Vásquez, Mayor of Tamesis in Antioquía, Colombia. 
The technology for improving city life already exists. Renewables could make zero-energy houses, for instance, thus eliminating energy bills once the investment is paid off. Yet these technologies haven’t still found their way to the end consumers. It is the same case with waste management. Germany has been recycling for decades while its European neighbour Spain still sends 63% of its waste to landfills (Ecoembes data). It would take a trip to Germany to find out how the technology for zero landfilling works. But perhaps the most notorious example of our inability to adopt groundbreaking technology is the Nikola Tesla case. In the early twentieth century Tesla developed a device for wireless energy transmission and today, some hundred years later, electricity is still travelling through cables.
In the light of this, adoption and market penetration in the context of innovation seem to be at least as important as the innovation itself. Wouldn’t it be sensible then to take resources off innovation and put them in adoption strategies? Or, taking it a step further, perhaps we should stop the pursuit of technology for a minute and work on taking to the market the technologies that already exist.
This last thought may sound regressive but it makes sense if we consider the huge success of the award-winning Solar Bottle Bulb in emerging markets. The solar bulb is a plastic bottle filled with water and bleach which, when pierced through the roof of a house, refracts sunlight and provides as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. The bottle brings indoor lighting at no cost, reduces electricity bills and the use of kerosene lamps. It is extraordinary to say the least that although windows and electricity have both been around for a while, it is ultimately a water bottle doing the job of bringing light to the 1.5 billion people without electricity throughout the world.
 
The Solar Bottle by aliteroflight.org

Granted, the adoption of infrastructure technologies isn’t easy. High costs, conflicting interests and inaccessible information are the main barriers. Policy makers are believed to hold the key to unlock the progress of these technologies, yet at a time when grassroots movements are the drivers of change, it seems limiting to accept that the power of anything could be in the hands of politicians. It is the responsibility of us all to try and come up with solutions that can bring infrastructure to as many people as possible.

There are at least three ways to do so:

1. Put people at the centre of any decision
People are the ultimate users; they know what they need and how much they can afford. Ask them and plan the infrastructures starting with the result you are likely to achieve.

The wrap-up at The Economist Urban Infrastructure conference last month in London was precisely this: people, common sense and collaboration for breaking down silos should be the drivers of infrastructure planning.

2. Think holistically
A city is made of many interacting parts. It is a system of systems where each and every one contributes to a common good (see diagram 1). Focusing on a specific and punctual proposal without considering and acting upon its context does not make a sustainable solution. A well-functioning town is a balanced one that gives equal importance to all systems.


Diagram 1: SaC works with 11 systems





3. Go simple and one step at a time
Systems can be built gradually, starting with the more important first. This is easiest done with simple, possibly low-tech solutions, which in infrastructure translates into lowering the standards. They can be upgraded at a later stage when the community progresses. It is important though that space for all systems is provided from the beginning without ever compromising it.

At Send a City (SaC) we believe that this approach could make infrastructure travel far. We additionally monitor the impact and cost of every system. This allows the stakeholders (community and investors) to be part of the process and it helps us not to deviate from the essential. We even encourage systems towards self-organization and seek this way to empower citizens to create their urban and social reality while achieving the goals of land development and capital assets creation.


About
This post was originally published on Geospatial World on December 3, 2014 with the title How to Make Infrastructure Go Viral

Cover picture by PS. Diepsloot Township, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Colours of Panama

19:21

13 June 2014

The first thing you learn in Panama is that water is the country's main resource and that a cloudy sky is an essential and non-negotiable part of it. In spite of this, or possibly because of it, everything under that grey sky seems to be wonderfully tinted. Buildings being no exception. The colour palettes are endless - primary, colonial, pastel - and the quirky colour combinations, something you can't help loving.

Biodiversity Museum in Panama City by Frank Gehry.

Biomuseo | Photo ©Victoria Murillo, istmophoto.com
Biomuseo | Photo ©Victoria Murillo, Istmophoto.com

Biomuseo | Photo ©Victoria Murillo, Istmophoto.com

Biomuseo during the Night of the Museums
 "Somos Luz", a wonderful project by Boa Mistura for the Bienal del Sur in the Chorrillo neighbourhood in Panama City. Boa Mistura uses urban art to enhance deprived neighbourhoods across the globe.

Begonia Building, El Chorrillo, April 2013 | Photo © BoaMistura
 The helpers | Photo © BoaMistura
  
Begonia Building, El Chorrillo before the works | Photo © BoaMistura

   Sadly, the beautiful mural got partially painted over.
  
Begonia Building, El Chorrilo, April 2014
El Chorrillo | Panama City
Universidad de Panamá | Panama City
Building in Avenida de los Poetas | Panama City
The Canopy Tower, a lovely hotel for wildlife watching set in a former military installation amidst an impressive rainforest.
  
Canopy Tower | Soberanía National Park | Gamboa
Observation Deck, Canopy Tower | Gamboa   
Canopy Tower | Gamboa
Gatún Locks at the Canal
Bus Station | Colón
   
Kuna woman | Rio Cartí, Guna Yala
  
Photos
Cover picture: City of Knowledge Exhibition Hall, Panama City | Project by Boa Mistura & students of ISTHMUS (Architectural and Design School for Latin America and the Caribbean) | Photo © Boa Mistura

Other pictures by PS unless otherwise stated



The Spanish Colonial Town: Planning Flexibility in Spite of the Grid

15:13
12 June 2014

In a span of two centuries America saw the foundation of the largest number of cities ever established in such a short period of timeFrom the six European countries involved in the American venture - namely Portugal, Spain, France, England, Denmark and Holland - only Spain felt the importance of trading from organized communities and created a set of planning guidelines to consider when building the new towns. The guidelines did not only provide an action plan to establish new towns but also a plan to grow them sustainably through the years.

The guidelines for the planning of the new cities were developed in a 70 year span in a process that included constant feedback from the new territories. 

Once Columbus set sail, Queen Isabella's instructions on how to settle in any potential new territory began to unfold. Her first (loose) instructions went 1501 to Fray Nicolás de Ovando, the governor of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic): "Since it is paramount to found towns on the island and it is not possible to give specific instructions from here, get a feel yourself for the places in the island, and choose the more suitable sites according to the qualities of the land and the inhabitants". (1)

1513 King Ferdinand got more specific in the "Instrucciones" to Pedrarias Dávila before his expedition to the province of Castilla del Oro (coast of Central America): "Let the city lots be regular from the start, so once they are marked out the town will appeared well ordered as to the place which is left for a plaza, the site for the church, and the sequence of the streets; for in places newly established proper order can be given from the start." (2)

Emperor Charles V continued the mission and issued several instructions to this end, like the "General Instructions for the Founding of Cities in the Indies" from 1521 the "Instructions to Hernán Cortés" from 1523 (3) and the "Imperial Provisions" from 1526 (4). 

These instructions culminated in the "Ordinances Concerning Discoveries, Settlements and Pacification of the Indies" ("Ordenanzas de Descubrimiento, Nueva Población y Pacificación de las Indias") issued on July 13th 1573 by King Philip II, a complete set of urban guidelines with 100+ decrees concerning the founding of new towns (see below)

It is interesting though, that despite the late drafting of these Ordinances, its content had been in use since the arrival of the first settlers who had already built 200 new towns between 1500 and 1573. Valerie Fraser's view on this is that there was "some sort of cultural memory, an inherited, almost instinctive knowledge in town planning" early settlers were drawing on. (6)

The first urban centres began in Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) and then progressively expanded around the Caribbean and to Central America. Santo Domingo was the first town, built in 1502, followed by San Juan (1509), Santiago de Cuba (1514), Havana (1515), Veracruz (1519), Panamá la Antigua (1519), Santa Marta (1525) and Cartagena (1533) These early towns already show the basic aspects of the Spanish colonial town: a compact layout, a main square and a city grid laid out with respect to the cardinal points.

Santo Domingo,  Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) | est. 1502
San Juan, Puerto Rico | est. 1509
Havana, Cuba | est. 1515
Veracruz, Mexico | est. 1519
Old Panama City, Panama | est. 1519
Cartagena, Colombia | est. 1533
Once the model got consolidated in the Caribbean, it spread throughout South America where the mostly orthogonal city grid became a checkerboard system with square blocks. 

The "ordered" village by Juan de Matienzo, 1567
Lima, Peru | est. 1536

Santiago, Chile | est. 1541

Bogota, Colombia | est. 1553

Caracas, Venezuela | est. 1567
Buenos Aires, Argentina | est. 1580

Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, Guatemala | est. 1776
  
The 1573 Ordinances, a document that according to Axel I. Mundigo has left a "formidable physical imprint and social heritage" (7), are about:

* Consensus with locals and a masterplan 
110. (...) On arriving at the place where the new settlement is to be founded - which according to our will and disposition shall be one that is vacant and that can be occupied without doing harm to the Indians and natives or with their free consent - a plan for the site is to be made, dividing it into squares, streets, and building lots, using cord and ruler, beginning with the main square from which streets are to run to the gates and principal roads and leaving sufficient open space so that even if the town grows, it can always spread in the same manner. (...)
* A healthy location:
111. Having made the selection of the site where the town is to be built, it must, as already stated, be in an elevated and healthy location; [be] with means of fortification; [have] fertile soil and with plenty of land for farming and pasturage; have fuel, timber, and resources; [have] fresh water, a native population, ease of transport, access and exit; [and be] open to the north wind; and, if on the coast, due consideration should be paid to the quality of the harbour and that the sea does not lie to the south or west; and if possible not near lagoons or marshes in which poisonous animals and polluted air and water breed.
* A space for gatherings and social activities
112. The main plaza is to be the starting point for the town; if the town is situated on the sea coast, it should be placed at the landing place of the port, but inland it should be at the centre of the town. The plaza should be square or rectangular, in which case it should have at least one and a half its width for length inasmuch as this shape is best for fiestas in which horses are used and for any other fiestas that should be held. 
* A defined urban fabric
113. The size of the plazas shall be proportioned to the number of inhabitants, taking into consideration the fact that in Indian towns, inasmuch as they are new, the intention is that they will increase, and thus the plaza should be decided upon taking into consideration the growth the town may experience. (...)
114. From the plaza shall begin four principal streets. (...)
115. Around the plaza as well as along the four principal streets which begin there, there shall be portals, for these are of considerable convenience to the merchants who generally gather there; (...)
116. In cold places, the streets shall be wide and in hot places narrow; but for purposes of defence in areas where there are horses, it would be better if they are wide.

118. Here and there in the town, smaller plazas of good proportion shall be laid out (...).
129. Within the town, a commons shall be delimited, large enough that although the population may experience a rapid expansion, there will always be sufficient space where the people may go to for recreation and take their cattle to pasture without them making any damage.
* Mixed uses
 119. For the temple of the principal church, parish, or monastery, there shall be assigned specific lots; (...)
121. (...)  the hospital for the poor and those sick of noncontagious diseases shall be built near the temple and its cloister; and the hospital for the sick with contagious diseases shall be built in such a way that no harmful wind blowing through it may cause harm to the rest of the town. If the latter be built in an elevated place, so much the better.
122. The site and building lots for slaughter houses, fisheries, tanneries, and other business which produce filth shall be so placed that the filth can easily be disposed of.
126. The plaza (...) shall be used for the buildings of the church and royal houses and for city use, but shops and houses for the merchants should be built first, to which all the settlers of the town shall contribute, and a moderate tax shall be imposed on goods so that these buildings may be built. 
 * Equal land distribution
127. The other building lots shall be distributed by lottery to the settlers, continuing with the lots closer to the main plaza, and the lots that are left shall be held by us for assignment to those who shall later become settlers (...).
103. (...) The person responsible for the town must select urban lots, farm, and pasture lands for the person willing to populate the town, who shall receive the amount of peonias and caballerías on which he is willing and able to build as long as no one is awarded more than five peonias nor three caballerias if given the latter. 
* Beautiful architecture
134. They shall try as far as possible to have the buildings all of one type for the sake of the beauty of the town.  
La Candelaria Historic District | Bogotá
Colonial House | Bogotá
La Candelaria Historic District | Bogotá
San Felipe (Casco Antiguo) | Panama City
San Felipe (Casco Antiguo) | Panama City
Main Plaza in Antigua, Guatemala | Photo J. Zanella  

The Spanish Crown believed that an open, ordered and beautiful town confers its inhabitants what they called polity, i.e. a set of virtues and values that grant the ability to live a dignified and happy life. 

Whereas it is difficult to assess if polity was indeed created, a sure fact is that the 16th century Spanish colonial city model remains an invaluable addition in the quest for a better living.



Notes
(1) Instructions to Fray Nicolás de Ovando | 16 Sept 1501 | De la ciudad ortogonal aragonesa a la cuadricula hipanoamericana como proceso de innovacion-difusion, condicionado por la utopia  | Vicente Bielza de Ory | Universidad de Barcelona 2002, note 16
(2) Instructions to Pedrarias Dávila | 2 August 1513 | City Walls: The Urban Enceinte in Global Perspective, note 61, p136 & in La ciudad en un cruce de caminos: Panamá y sus orígenes urbanos p73
(3) Instructions to Hernán Cortés | 26 June 1523
(4) Ordinance by Emperor Charles V | 1526 | Los origenes del urbanismo novohispano, Xavier Cortes Rocha
(5) Ordinances Concerning Discoveries, Settlements and Pacification by King Philip II | 13 July 1573 
(6) The Architecture of Conquest: Building in the Viceroyalty of Peru 1535-1635 | Valerie Fraser | Cambridge University Press 2009
(7) The City Planning Ordinances of the Laws of the Indies Revisited. Part I: Their Philosophy and Implications | Alex I. Mundigo and Dora P. Crouch | Liverpool University Press 2004 p1 Intro

Maps
Urbs Domingo in Hispaniola, John Ogilvy | Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc. 
Plan of San Juan de Puerto Rico, 1794 by Cosme de Churruca | Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.
Map of Havana, 1798 by D. José del Rio | Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc.
Map of Veracruz, 1777 by D. Sebastián Canel | Biblioteca Nacional de España
Map of Cartagenas de Indias 1550 Unknown
No records for other maps

Sources
* City Walls: The Urban Enceinte in Global Perspective | edited by James D. Tracy | Cambridge University Press 2000 * Ciudades Tropicales Sostenibles | Bruno Stagno & Jimena Ugarte | Instituto de Arquitectura Tropical 2006 
* De la ciudad ortogonal aragonesa a la cuadricula hipanoamericana como proceso de innovacion-difusion, condicionado por la utopia  | Vicente Bielza de Ory | Universidad de Barcelona 2002
* La ciudad en un cruce de caminos: Panamá y sus orígenes urbanos | María del Carmen Mena García | Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos 1992
*Normas y leyes de la ciudad hispanoamericana: 1492-1600 | by Francisco de Solano y Pérez-Lila | Consejo Superior d eInvestigación Científica 1995
* Royal Ordinances Concerning the Laying out of New Towns (in Spanish) | Zelia Nuttall | The Hispanic American Historical Review Vol. 4, No. 4, Nov., 1921 
* The Laws of the Indies: Ordinances for the Discovery, Population and Pacification of the Indies | Alex I. Mundigo and Dora P. Crouch | Liverpool University Press 2004
* The City Planning Ordinances of the Laws of the Indies Revisited | Alex I. Mundigo and Dora P. Crouch | Liverpool University Press 2004
  
Pictures
by PS unless otherwise stated. Cover picture, Panama City old town


Teresa Margollés: Testing Building's Memories

18:57
3 March 2014

What do you do when 115,000 homes are left behind? Mexican artist Teresa Margollés explores the phenomenon of Ciudad Juárez, the border city that saw 220,000 residents displaced by violence in 2010.

El Testigo / The witness, Teresa Margollés' solo exhibition at the CA2M in Madrid, starts with a room full of covers of a Ciudad de Juárez tabloid. The work, called PM 2010 (2012), shows all the covers of 2010, a year said to be one of the most violent ones. As a matter of fact, there isn't a single cover in that room that doesn't picture an act of brutal violence. 

The second room, a corridor, has a sound installation called the Sounds of Death. You arrive to the third room very well picturing the place issues. 

This Property Won't Be Demolished is a colour series of 30 photographs of empty buildings taken between 2009 and 2013 in Ciudad Juárez. You've previously understood the reason for the population displacement, now you see the result of it. But Margollés takes it further in the next room by making you feeling it. The Promise is a wall made with 22 tons of rubble from a Juárez house. The public is encouraged to undo the wall with the hands, bringing it back to rubble.
  
La promesa / The Promise (2012)
The artwork comes with a picture archive and a video with the making-of: an abandoned house in south-east Ciudad Juárez is purchased, carefully demolished, grounded, packed and sent away. 

Archivo La promesa (2011-13) by T. Margollés

Archivo La promesa (2011-13) by T. Margollés

Archivo La promesa (2011-13)

Archivo La promesa (2011-13) by T. Margollés
   
It is very powerful to have a reconstituted wall in front of you and be able to touch and demolish it. You connect to the story with the senses rather than with the mind. Apparently feeling an issue rather than understanding it, is what takes to care about it.

Besides the power of presence, the other aspect Margollés brings over is about the essence of a town. It becomes clear in the show that it's neither the buildings nor the people what makes a city successful, but rather the social contract between these people. The willingness of a community to sacrifice some personal liberties in favour of a common good.

So what do you do when 115,000 homes are left behind? You try to put an end to what has triggered the displacement in the first place.
  

About
The Witness, Teresa Margolles | 18 February - 25 May 2014
Centro de Arte 2 de Mayo (CA2M) in Móstoles | Madrid

Further reading about Teresa Margollés in the article ARCOMadrid 2013

Pictures 
by AM unless otherwise stated. Cover pictures This Property Won't Be Demolished by Teresa Margollés
  

ARCOMadrid 2014

11:26
Oasis at El País

The 33rd edition of ARCO, Madrid's contemporary art fair, offers in 2014 an experience worked around its visitors. There is an oasis for charging phones, a food court arranged as a German Biergarten with live DJ sessions, an open TV set and a radio station. What used to happen behind closed doors, plays now finally in the open. Lovely art as well. Here is a selection...


Hans-Peter Feldmann, Sonntagsbilder | Mehdi Chouakri Gallery, Berlin


Caio Reisewitz, Pirituba, 2014 | Galeria Luciana Brito, São Paulo
 
Caio Reisewitz, Joaçaba, 2010 | Galeria Luciana Brito, São Paulo


  
Los Carpinteros | Ivorypress, Madrid
   
Michael Najjar, Sands of Mars, 2013 | Galeria Juan Silió, Santander

Cornwall's Eden Project in the Atacama Desert.
 
Miguel Rothschild, Insomnia XIII, 2013 | Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin
   
Ralf Ziervogel, Endeneu Rot, 2012 | Kewenig Gallery, Berlin
   
Sanja Iveković, Sunglasses, 2002-4 | Galería Visor, Valencia

This is a wonderful project and the result of a collaboration with various women's shelters. The artist attaches a picture of a model to a personal story of violence and abuse. The beauty of the models takes over the stories of pain and suffering and confers the women a strength that could not have been perceived with the text alone.
  
  
Tomás Saraceno, Sagitarius, 2013 | Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen

    
Tomás Saraceno, Carina, 2013 | Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen
 
Elger Esser, La Grande Be, 2009 | Kewenig Gallery, Berlin
      
José Dávila, Untitled, 2013 | Galería Travesía Cuatro, Madrid
   
José Dávila, Untitled, 2013 | Galería Travesía Cuatro, Madrid
   
Knopp Ferro, Space 21:31, 2014 | Dan Galeria, Sao Paulo
 
Ian Monroe, Lines of Light 14, 2014 | Galería Casado Santapau, Madrid
     
Carlos Garaicoa, En Construcción (VI), 2012 | Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid
   
Luciano Romano, La Città di Marmo, 2010 | Galleria Studio Trisorio, Neaples

 
Richard Mosse, Lost Fun Zone, 2012 | Galería Leyendecker, Tenerife

Adelita Husni-Bey, Working for a World Free of Poverty, 2014 | Galleria La Veronica, Modica (Sicily)

Very interesting (and with a great format) Adelita Husni-Bey series on show in Opening, a section for galleries with a life shorter than seven years and with a focus on the youngest art scene. The work above shows the percentage of global economic growth, comparison of advanced and emerging economies in 2013 (left), prospects for 2014 (centre) and 2015 (right) according to IMF data.

The Solo Projects section focuses this year on Latin America and Manuel Mérida (below) is one of the selected artists.
Manuel Mérida | Espace Meyer Zafra, Paris

    
The communal spaces...




 
About
ARCO International Contemporary Art Fair | Madrid | 19 - 23 February 2014

Previous Articles
ARCOMadrid 2013
ARCOMadrid 2012 and 2013 Prospect

Featured Artists
Adelita Husni-Bey
Caio Reisewitz 
Carlos Garaicoa
Elger Esser
Hans-Peter Feldmann
Ian Monroe
José Dávila
Knopp Ferro
Los Carpinteros 
Luciano Romano
Manuel Mérida
Michael Najjar
Miguel Rothschild
Ralf Ziervogel
Richard Mosse (see last year's ARCO article to learn more about the Eastern Congo infrared series)
Sanja Iveković
Tomás Saraceno

Photos by PS

 
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