Friday, May 21, 2010

Final Projects

Below are several of our final projects.


Using Environment as a Framework for Urban Design in Usme

This project includes an environmental analysis of the site in usme, critique of the proposed Metrovivienda plan and an alternative plan that frames development with environment and proposes the use of ecological infrastructure as physical/social intervention.

Shinyoung Kang

Of the four phases of Usme social housing project of Bogota, Colombia, this phase one covers the site of 322.95 hectares with proposed population of 100,000 and 25,000 dwelling units. The solution to the density for the phase is to take advantage of its topography, composed of slopes in a range of 10 to 80 percent. The site is divided by degrees of slopes and existing and man-made waterways. Housing and other facilities are positioned in the divisions along with its contours or perpendicular to the contours based on the analysis of the degrees of slopes and density to minimize unnecessary land development and to increase density. The maximum building height is limited to six-stories, making elevators unnecessary for energy saving and limited budget. The buildings are accessed from the higher points of each division, where they go up to six stories or down to six stories depending on the degrees of slopes. Blurring the edges of man-made environment, natural wide open fields spared from restricted land development provide community activity spaces such as community gardens, gathering places, playgrounds, or natural parks. For productive land use, even retaining walls turn into flower gardens or wall climbing for community. In order to help community economy at the same time for family gathering and children educational places, there are a museum and galleries near the archeological site, its own agricultural land and farmers markets close to neighboring farmlands, mechanic, souvenir, and carpentry shops of light industry for low-income population, and live and work spaces and mixed-use buildings along with housing. Water lines and water collectors installed inside community as well as the protected zone, 30 meter wide green spaces along the existing water channels, also do the part of community activity spaces, trails, picnic spots, and parks. Each building harnesses natural ventilation, natural energy, and green roof to minimize mechanical systems such as elevators, heating, and cooling system to satisfy the conditions of high demand and low budget of social housing in Bogota.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Where have we been?

In the past few weeks, we have been wading knee deep in snow here in New York as well as in issues of growth, development, infrastructure and ecology at scales that stretch from our site in Usme to Colombia, to the globe. As a way of representing these issues, we have constructed word maps outlining each of our primary questions in order to develop a collective narrative. Out of this narrative, we created diagrams to synthesize the information we collected.


My primary issue of interest is Flexible Housing. In the Word Map, I define flexible housing not simply as an architecture typology, but as economy, community empowerment, and politics converging and influencing each other to create a new system of planning and development. Through this exercise I believe real flexibility can be reached at all scales: housing, community, USME and beyond.


For this exercise I examined the issue of environment. I began by identifying several of the main problems and stating the overarching possibilities. Then I listed the actors involved, what they do, as well as examples of how they do it. -Next I took three elements from the word map, highlighted relevant case studies, and diagrammed them. The elements I chose were: Community Engagement, Pedagogical Platforms, and Green Housing. After that I combined them and created my own mechanism. The revised diagram articulates the use of Community Engagement and Pedagogical Platforms to create Green Housing.


We are challenged with the densification of housing types in order to accommodate growth in Bogota. I challenge the premise that new development is really necessary. Is there a way to develop Usme as a continued agricultural area for Bogota, developing housing and agriculture together in order to provide a new economic livelihood, without developing the entire region?
Could we see what happened at the archeological site in Usme as a way to freeze conventional development and instead, become more specific about the ways in which Usme will grow and support its own economy?


Bogota’s current system of community empowerment is problematic because of its structuring around centralized, top-down policy implementation. The result is a system with incomplete connections between the governmental bodies and the public. This exercise investigates issues that inhibit networks of public knowledge that influence decision-making. Additionally, it proposes a system redefined by the specificities of culture, people, skills, and geographies to organize community networks of education and, eventually, empowerment.


Most of the housing finance policies in Bogota are designed for households who are working in the formal sectors, excluding the population who make a living in the informal economy. How can we involve communities in the process of improving their living environments? I am investigating strategies for financing housing projects through the use of communities' own assets and also in the ways that housing projects can act as an economic engine for the communities.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Concept Mapping

This week, the class came together with lists of major issues that apply to our project in Usme. As a class, we analyzed the underlying concerns, dividing them into three scales: regional, city level and site specific. Collectively, we classified issues into a matrix spanning social, economic, architectural, landscape, and political themes.

We negotiated how problems present themselves and where the solutions lie. As a class, we hope to address overarching regional themes as they apply to site-specific interventions in Usme.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pecha Presentation

Toward the end of our trip in Bogota we presented our thoughts and impressions to Teddy and some professors of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. For the presentation we chose a format similar to Pecha Kucha, except, instead of doing 20 slides 20 seconds we did 1 slide 1 minute. Here is each of our slides:


Both formal and informal developments are loaded with patterns, from materiality and morphologies, to growth and sprawl. My first observations of Bogota were infused with just that. The brick utilized as the local construction material creates natural hues and shades, which makes a construction typology, and at the end results in a pattern of urban growth.


Bogota called to mind questions of what exactly creates vibrant public space. My preconceived notions about informal housing offering residents exactly what they need because it has grown organically did not prove consistently true. It was easy to critique many social housing projects, but it was not as simple as that. Not all the social housing projects were empty and devoid of activity. These communities varied in safety and vitality, but there was no formula for what made certain places work as lively active public space and others look like ghost towns.


Far away from distance, Bogota looks as if a pink tinted blanket happened to be positioned between two mountain ranges by the wind, shining in the crisp beautiful sunlight amid sky, mountains, and hills. Low small brick buildings closely packed together on the uneven surfaces of mountain and hill sides are like fallen dominoes in different sizes sparkling and casting shadows in the sunshine, a peaceful harmony of nature and an unorganized beauty of human structures. However, walking deep into the beauty, you witness its transition to chaos, a maze of materials comprising one or two story brick houses densely covered. Their fences and makeshift walls are made of pieces of tin, wood, plywood or metal mesh, and disconnection between these fences and walls makes entrances to houses. Inside these fences and walls are minimized living spaces enveloped by assorted walls of cement, brick, or discarded wood and by a collage of roof elements of pieces of tint, wood, or cloth and holding stones and bricks on them, sheltering the inhabitants from harsh weather conditions. Dust from cars running on the dirt roads and their exhaust fumes find their ways into the houses through gaps between walls of different materials as well as covering up surroundings outside with dust and fumes. Surprisingly, in the unfinished, unorganized, and unplanned part of the city its residents greet a stranger like me with their perfect smiles.


I chose this image because it first represents a city of security or should i say insecurity and second a city of contrast. -This picture is of the Julio Mario Santo Domingo building at Universitad de Los Andes and it was one of the first sights on our tour of the downtown. When we past the building not only did we see this bare facade with nothing on it but a security camera, but our group was also promptly confronted by an armed guard that warned us of walking in the adjacent area. This building also represents the expansion of the private university and subsequent gentrification of the existing neighborhood.


People of Bogota is one of the issues that raised my attention the most. During our conversations, sightseeing visits and walks, I could experience the different “authentic faces” of “bogotanos” as the city stretched from its historic center to the outskirts of Usme. Not only the appearance of people impressed me, but also the countless ways that they use, create and adapt jobs to enter the local market. Bogota’s informal market, as in the whole of South America, is a great example of how creative and diverse “bogotanos” can be. The ability of comprehending the importance of this informal market to the city and people and learning ways to accommodate this demand of commerce in the formal city in a natural and effective way will be a key aspect in our understanding of the city.


Witnessing the physical evolution of an informal settlement from nine months to 30 years showed that the initial structures built by inhabitants are thought to be temporary - at least in form and material - and over time permanancy is created and additional height added. Some social housing examples that we saw do allow for small additions or changes over time, but these projects are still pre-determined to a great extent by a plan laid in place from the start. What should be the balance between pre-planned dwelling and organic evolution by inhabitants? What makes a house become a home? What makes an area where people live become a community?


As the city of Bogotá continues to expand exponentially, the informal settlements are in demand for necessary infrastructures. Stemming from neighboring older legalized portions of the city, utilities are drawn to sites of a younger organic community struggling to create a basic quality of life for their inhabitants. This image shows electricity taken illegally from a neighboring community that has existed for nearly thirty years and has since been “legalized”. The informal community stealing the utilities has only existed for nine months and is plugging in to the neighboring water and electrical supply. What type of system has allowed a structure like this to perpetuate? What solutions can we pose as alternatives to provide these necessary infrastructures?


What stood out to me at the beginning of my visit to Bogota was how inconsistent the streets were. Ground-watching is almost a requirement while walking in order to avoid the dips and rises on the sidewalks, broken or missing concrete and bricks, uncovered drains and manholes, and randomly placed bollards. There is an interrupted fluidity of individual streets and also of the collection of streets of Bogota. These images show the priority of uses of the residents living there and a timeline of settlement into these places. It also draws attention to the rough seams of a socio-economically divided city and the attempt (or non-attempt?) of standardization.


Bogota is a city of walls. There is a perceived necessity in partitioning the city at a range of scales. These walls could be manifested as exclusionary political separations between social classes or a simple barbed wire fence to claim a small, scarce piece of neighborhood property. Regardless of the reason, there is an inherent culture of claiming and demarcating space. I intend to investigate this phenomenon in order to inform decision making about place, identity, and connections with the land at the human, community, city, and regional scales.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Heading South: The Urban Design Studio goes to Bogotá

In mid January, our class headed to Bogotá, Colombia, to check out some of their recent and current projects relating to urbanism and social housing. Secretaría Distrital del Hábitat generously acted as our hosts, showing us around the city and providing a wealth of information about how they are working to improve housing conditions and generate new housing in a rapidly expanding city.

New growth in Bogotá is happens largely by illegal, informal development, posing safety risks to the residents as well as environmental and ecological risks to the entire region. We toured the periphery of Bogotá to see these patterns of growth, and to look at some current social housing projects by Metrovivienda, the sector of the Bogota government that is in charge of planning new housing for the city. We toured the city center with folks working at La Empresa de Renovación Urbana, the division responsible for revitalization projects in Bogotá. Caja de Vivienda Popular explained the government system for subsidies for home improvements and infrastructure for newly legalized settlements

Our focus in particular was on a planned housing and community development project in Usme, in the south of Bogotá. Usme is one of the last undeveloped pieces of land in Bogotá, and the project which Metrovivienda has planned is the largest in Colombia to date, expecting to house 200,000 people.

Our semester will focus on rethinking the current plan for the site and investigating the core issue of urban growth, using Usme and Bogotá as case studies.

We are extremely grateful to everyone at Secretaría Distrital del Hábitat, Metrovivienda, La Empresa de Renovación Urbana and Caja de Vivienda Popular who took the time to speak with us and help us to better understand how the issue of housing is being addressed in Bogotá. Special thanks to Anna Maria Buritica for spending so much time and energy to make our trip incredibly productive and exciting.