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robertogreco : politicalequator   4

A new U.S.-Mexico border? At the Venice Biennale, imagining a binational region called MEXUS
"As part of their research into watersheds, Cruz and Forman have created an inventory of public lands in Los Laureles that can serve multiple purposes — as green space, environmental education center and natural buffers to mitigate flows of waste. And they are working to see how they can create a mechanism to invest in those spaces so that they might be preserved.

“Instead of the investing in the wall,” says Cruz, “can we invest to get the poor settlement to regulate the flow of waste? Can we get the poor residents to take care of the rich estuary?’

The subjects are tricky, but in these types of projects, Zeiger says she sees plenty of optimism.

“In architecture, if we don’t allow ourselves to visualize a condition that is different than the current condition, then we really cut off how we will impact the future,” she says.

For Forman, that consists of fomenting a new type of border culture.

“Citizenship,” she says, “is not an identity card. It’s about coexisting and building a city together.”"
teddycruz  fonnaforman  carolinamiranda  border  borders  us  california  mexico  sandiego  tijuana  texas  arizona  newmexico  2018  venicebiennale  architecture  citizenship  politicalequator  geography  geopolitics  mimizeiger  annlui  afrofuturism  architects  mexus  walls  nature  watersheds  land  maps  mapping  territory  ybca 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Tijuana: life on the political equator | Cities | theguardian.com
"In one of those speculative reports full of foreboding about our urban future, UN-Habitat has predicted that this century metropolises will start joining up like blobs of mercury, crossing international borders to form urban mega-regions. Tijuana-San Diego is an intriguing prospect because the border is not just national but forms part of an imaginary line dividing the global South and North, the developing and developed worlds. This is what Cruz calls the political equator. The question is how the two worlds on either side of it can influence each other?"



"Cruz has done pioneering work in Los Laureles. He was the first to point out that the waste from San Diego’s construction industry was being recycled into new homes here. Further along the valley, where the settlement is more precarious, the evidence is everywhere. “You see those yellow walls?” says Cruz, pointing to the side of a house. “Those are garage doors from San Diego.” Garage doors are a popular material in this canyon. The houses are works of assemblage, like habitable collages. Elsewhere, there are whole post-war prefab houses, simply transplanted from the San Diego suburbs by truck. In crowded areas these are sometimes raised up on metal stilts, right on top of another house – a phenomenon Cruz calls “club sandwich urbanisation". He was so captivated by this practice that at one point he collaborated with amaquiladora to cheaply manufacture space frames specifically for raising up old bungalows. It was a kit of parts for building club sandwiches.

The use of readymades like this has led Cruz to describe such neighbourhoods in Tijuana as purely productive, as opposed to the consumption-based model across the border. Here, San Diego’s waste is recycled to build new communities. Revealing this symbiotic relationship was one way of ascribing value to a type of settlement that is under-respected. “This level of activity needs to be amplified if we’re going to understand the sustainable city,” he says. But while Cruz celebrates such creativity, he is careful not to imply that such communities don’t still need help.

Most of Los Laureles is informal, technically an illegal squatter settlement, but many of the residents have begun the process of acquiring land titles. It is a slow process through which residents incrementally buy legal status and in exchange get the utility services and the political representation that come with it.

This is the kind of administrative process that Cruz has been at pains to engage with. For him, architectural design is far less important than the bureaucratic systems that determine whether communities are empowered or disempowered. And this is precisely one of those cases, where informal communities have the resourcefulness to build homes out of garage doors but not the bureaucratic tools – a legal address, for instance – to find employment outside of the informal sector."



"“This is the laboratory for me in the next five years,” says Cruz. “The first thing Oscar and I want to do is to build a community centre/scientific field station to work on the pollution and water issues.” The big question is whether he can get San Diego’s administration to invest in a place like Los Laureles, whose trash washes across the border into the estuary, as a way of protecting its own ecological interests. “Instead of spending millions on the wall, they could invest in this community so that the poor shanty town becomes the protector of the rich estuary.”

As the last informal settlement in Latin America, with its nose pressed against the window of the North, Los Laureles is already symbolic. But it is also significant as the nexus of three crucial issues. Firstly, it reveals the material flows across this border: San Diego’s waste flows south to be recycled into a barrio, while the barrio’s waste is washed north less productively. Secondly, by disrupting the watershed, the border is undermining the stability of an ecological system. And Cruz’s idea is that Los Laureles should be a micro case study in transnational collaboration, so that the barrio is seen not as a slum but effectively as the guardian of the local environment. Finally, the canyon is another potential testing ground for developing land cooperatively, much as Urban-Think Tank had imagined doing in San Agustín, so that the communal agenda is not lost in the formalisation process.

For Cruz, the collision of complex issues embodied by this easily overlooked community is of global significance. “Any discussion about the future of urbanisation will have to begin by understanding the coalition of geopolitical borders, marginal communities and natural resources,” he says. “That’s why this canyon is fundamental.”"



"Cruz recognises that social change and the creation of a more equitable city are not a question of good buildings. They are a question of civic imagination. And that is something that has been sorely eroded by the neo-liberal economic policies of recent decades. Cruz is a stern critic of America’s steady withdrawal from any notion of public responsibility. He talks of “the three slaps in the face of the American public” after the 2008 crash, namely: the Wall Street bailouts, the millions of foreclosures and the public spending cuts. “It wasn’t just an economic crisis but a cultural crisis, a failure of institutions,” he says. “A society that is anti-government, anti-taxes and anti-immigration only hurts the city.”

So what is to be done? For Cruz, the only way forward is not to play by the existing rules, but to start redesigning those institutions. In San Ysidro, he has been seeking to change the zoning laws to allow a richer and more empowering community life. And changing legislation means engaging with what has been called the “dark matter” – not just the physical fabric of the city, but its regulations.

This is the very definition of the activist architect, one who creates the conditions in which it is possible to make a meaningful difference. New social and political frameworks also need designing, and this i what Cruz has been doing in San Ysidro. “Designing the protocols or the interfaces between communities and spaces, this is what’s missing,” he says. It means giving people the tools they need to be economically productive, and giving them a voice in shaping how the community operates.

In one sense, this could be misinterpreted as just yet more deregulation. But this is not a form of deregulation that enables more privatisation. On the contrary, it would allow more collective productivity and a more social neighbourhood. Here, the architect and the NGO become developers not with a view to profit, but to improve the prospects of the community. “We need to hijack the knowledge embedded in a developer’s spreadsheet,” says Cruz.

In San Ysidro lies the seed of an idea, which is that the lessons of Latin America are gradually penetrating the border wall. What Cruz is trying to do is challenge the American conception of the city as a rigidly zoned thing servicing big business on the one hand and some quaint idea of the American dream on the other. Instead, the city could be more communal, more productive. And he’s drawing on the much more complex dynamics of informal economies, where no space goes to waste, where every inch belongs to a dense network of social and economic exchanges. That’s the model he’s using to try to transform policy in San Diego. The regulations need to be more flexible, more ambiguous, more easily adapted to people’s needs. This is not a Turneresque laissez-faire attitude, but an attempt to get the top-down to facilitate the bottom-up.

And while much of that may sound somewhat utopian, the San Ysidro project has had a stroke of luck that may soon make it a reality. Cruz is now the urban policy advisor to the mayor. As the director of the self-styled Civic Innovation Lab, he heads a think tank operating out of the fourth floor of City Hall, which means that San Diego now has a department modelled on the policy units that were so transformative in Bogotá and Medellín.

What we have here is a Latin American architect, steeped in the lessons of Curitiba, Medellín and Tijuana, embedded within the administration of a major US city. And it’s clear that Cruz is establishing a bridgehead for the lessons of Latin America to find new relevance across what was once an unbridgeable divide. It’s early days, but the implications may well be radical."
justinmcguirk  teddycruz  tijuana  border  borders  architecture  2014  mikedavis  politicalequator  loslaurelescanyon  sandiego  mexico  us  latinamerica  empowerment  bureaucracy  process  politics  geopolitics  squatters  oscarromo  infrastructure  medellín  curitiba  sanysidro  urbanism  urbanplanning  urban  cities  policy  economics  activism  medellin  colombia 
july 2014 by robertogreco
My Right Turn at the Intersection of Good Ideas | PlaceMakers
"Setting the context, this is what Bill Fulton, preeminent planner / writer / Mayor of Ventura, writes and thinks about the state of California planning today:
The entire planning business in California is changing, and I cannot quite predict where we are headed. So many of the conditions we have lived with for the past generation or two are changing. Real estate development is flat and we can’t predict when the market’s coming back, meaning we can’t use development to leverage needed change in our communities – nor use developer money to fund our practices. Local government revenue is flat and probably going down – meaning advance planning in California is extremely dependent right now on state and federal money, which could dry up anytime. And, of course, nobody knows what’s going to happen with redevelopment in the long run. Cities are on the verge of bankruptcy, planning departments are being rolled up, and planners are out on the street.
In the short run, all these things are harmful to the profession and to California’s communities as well. But it’s possible that some kind of shakeout and rethinking of how planning works in this state is long overdue. Maybe we’ve become too dependent on the same ol’-same ol’ – tax-increment funds, developer impact fees, and so forth. Maybe it’s time to find a new model – one where the local governments play a smaller or at least different role, and developers and nonprofit organizations play a bigger one.

No argument there. And look where it fits with this NGO model presented by architect Teddy Cruz:
Our projects primarily engage the micro scale of the neighborhood, transforming it into the urban laboratory of the 21st century. The forces of control at play across the most trafficked checkpoint in the world has provoked the small border neighborhoods that surround it to construct alternative urbanisms of transgression that infiltrate themselves beyond the property line in the form of non-conforming spatial and entrepreneurial practices. A migrant, small scale activism that alters the rigidity of discriminatory urban planning of the American metropolis, and search for new modes of social sustainability and affordability. The political and economic processes behind this social activism bring new meaning to the role of the informal in the contemporary city. What is interesting here is not the ‘image’ of the informal but the instrumentality of its operational socio-economic and political procedures. The counter economic and social organizational practices produced by non-profit social service organizations (turned micro-developers of alternative housing prototypes and public infrastructure at the scale of the parcel) within these neighborhoods are creating alternative sites of negotiation and collaboration. They effectively search to transform top-down legislature and lending structures, in order to generate a new brand of bottom-up social and economic justice that can bridge the political equator.

An interesting convergence. Now allow me to add my ‘Community Character Corner‘ synopsis, which heroically attempts to bridge the brilliant points of both these perspectives together…"
2011  teddcruz  billfulton  california  sandiego  planning  urbanplanning  urbanism  neighborhoods  small  border  borders  transgression  migration  socialactivism  informal  affordability  sustainability  policy  politics  economics  cities  housing  collaboration  bottom-up  top-down  politicalequator  entrepreneurship  change  covernment  redevelopment  ventura  socal  howardblackson 
june 2013 by robertogreco
The Political Equator ["PE III is a 2-day cross-border mobile conference and community forum held June 3rd and 4th 2011."]
While in the last years, the global city became primary site of economic consumption & cultural display, local neighborhoods in margins of such centers of economic power remained sites of cultural production…peripheral communities & neighborhoods where new economies are emerging & new social, cultural & environmental configurations are taking place as catalysts to produce alternative urban policies towards a more inclusive social sustainability…

…continues to engage pressing regional socio-economic, urban & environmental conditions across San Diego-Tijuana border. These meetings have been focusing on a critical analysis of local conflicts in order to re-evaluate meaning of shifting global dynamics, across geo-political boundaries, natural resources & marginal communities…will focus on Neighborhood as a Site of Production, investigating practices in arts, architecture, science & humanities that work w/ peripheral neighborhoods worldwide…"
sandiego  tijuana  borders  togo  urban  urbanism  brunolatour  teddycruz  ucsd  sergiofajardo  emilianogandolfi  events  conferences  local  community  communities  culturalproduction  culture  environmentalism  activism  neighborhoods  art  arts  architecture  science  humanities  economics  development  quilianriano  publicculture  politicalequator  politics  policy 
may 2011 by robertogreco

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