Live close to where you live

The project “Live close to home: a projection of a compact and responsive city for the central neighborhoods of the capital San José.” aims to propose a dense, compact, mixed city model that makes intelligent use and fair access to resources (soil, water, air) as a commons, to promote healthy, dignified lives for its inhabitants, and which reduces the impact of the effects of climate change. The project proposes to break with the city-countryside duality without falling into mistakes already made by other architects (eg, garden city) who proposed low densities and sectorization. It also meets the guidelines of the SDGs and the concept of the City as a Common Good.

The proposal was elaborated for the mega-block #11 in downtown San José, following these guidelines:
A. Use of rainwater (thinking about climate change, flood/drought scenarios)
B. Application of the concept of agroforestry (agricultural production in coexistence with forest for the livelihood of the neighborhood)
C. Traditional proximity commerce, together with spaces for new jobs (spaces for teleworking, in co-working that integrate nurseries, libraries, municipal entrepreneurship accelerators, etc.)    

This project participated in the international call for proposals of the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2021, entitled CROSSROADS Building the resilient city.

[Project Location: Between 20th ave. and the 14th ave. and 10th street and the 2nd street, in the southern area of the San José downtown, Costa Rica.]

Our goal for this year 2020 stage in the process of the Social Housing as a Commons project was to develop a strategy that could reevaluate landscape planning based on the redefinition of the parameters of urban life. This, proposing a more efficient and functional urban space, with reduced ground coverage, for the basic living and development spaces, which at the same time would represent a possible model to be developed in the future in other areas of the city that also suffered from inadequate planning, which manifests itself with phenomena of accelerated overcrowding and abandonment at the same time.

The compilation of information is an arrangement of parameters to analyze the economy, business, lifestyle, and overall usage of the common spaces. These parameters provide a broad look at the problems within community relations, which need to be countered against inadequate planning that does not address their needs.

The need for intervention in these spaces could also be addressed from the impact for its inhabitants, which would translate into the capacity of a new local economy based on a sustainable and empowered community, recognized for its sensitivity to the environment and a better sense of community experience.

Therefore, a strategy was proposed to intervene in a city area that suffers from inadequate planning caused by the accelerated overcrowding and abandonment in this specific area of San Jose, Costa Rica. This generally affects the population of the area, due to problems of access to affordable housing in their neighborhood and daily living in a highly polluted environment. Having an overcrowded population is a common problem in several cities. But the main issue is what this indicator of overpopulation does to a space that wasn’t ready in design for it. 

The first marker is the inadequate planning of these areas that are visible in the unplanned streets and roads and the progressive growth in the use of vehicles in the city. The collapse of the different routes is just a small component of the overall issue. The lack of confidence in public transport linked to a not deeply rooted culture of it clearly translates into an excess of gas emissions for the capital.

Another pattern is the presence of redundant and little varied commerce in an area where there is no economy based on strong local products and where more generally there is a lack of areas for socialization. We observe a forgotten place, where the general economic activities are the result of a community without real empowerment.

These two markers are the representation of a society in need of urban intervention to give these communities the necessary infrastructure to rehabilitate.

Dragging the problems of overgrowth, for a community that has been neglected by public policies, has caused a fracture of the urban system and, at the same time, the dissociation of the resident community. Because its local commerce is not varied enough, the economy in this area is static as well as its community that lacks social and cultural spaces to develop a well-built sense of community. The overall planning and infrastructure of this sector require a change to develop a strategy that gives this population affordable housing in a thriving environment. 

For the development of the proposal 3 mega blocks were chosen previously zoned where each of them has dynamics particular social networks that make them function as such. The choice of the blocks was made through an analysis to determine which were the areas with the greatest urban potential, diversify the uses for the development of different proposals that can have a positive impact on the site and be able to evolve the conceptual programming by means of a physical spatial design.

The design of an urban conception is part of a strategy that goes along with projections and indicators that parametrize the design to have a successful intervention in a long term. These strategies of intervention would give the right infrastructure to these communities, planned roads to give pedestrian mobility by proximity. The main modulation of the building spaces is fundamental through a multi-position floor array building, and by acknowledging the revalorization of cultivation spaces and the hydrology mechanisms that it needs to thrive in the city to form a dynamic society and a new local business income. The new infrastructure will be able to provide heterogeneity for the local commerce to have local and cultural products with a stronger sense of nationality that will propel the economy.

We look for a better way of living in the city and at the same time, we deal with the problems that modern life brought us. Concerned about traffic and pollution, we need to create a system to get closer to a real urban solution for a problem that concerns us today but is growing unsustainably day by day.

Regular communication with the community is an important need to have a broad vision of the problems of the context. For this project, we set out to know the customs of the neighbors with respect to their environment, the people who characterize the neighborhood, and the rhythm of daily activities was the key to a contextualized project.

The planet demands that we listen to it. For this, we also have to give a voice to the people who demand a better standard of living. The quality that architects, urban planners, and decision-makers can provide to the Social Housing and its immediate context is the basis for change.

CROSSROADS Building the Resilient City