recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : squatters   11

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
a brief history of participation
"These activities were not always congenial to the program of government reform towards democratization. Many of them used participatory methods instead to net poor peoples into networks of debt and reliance on hierarchical authorities.

The reasons for the failures of participatory technology are actually quite specific.

Participation was appropriated during the 1970s as a means of cheap development without commitment of resources from above. The theme of participatory ownership of the city, pioneered in discussions about urban planning in the West, remained strong in the context of the developing world, and even grew in a context of spiraling urbanization. In India, the Philippines, and much of Africa and Latin America, postwar economies pushed peasants off of the land into cities, where the poor availability of housing required the poor to squat on land and build their own homes out of cheap building materials. At first, the governments of these towns collaborated with the World Bank to take out loans to provide expensive, high-rise public housing units. But increasingly, the World Bank drew upon the advice of western advocates of squatter settlements, who saw in western squats the potential benefits of self-governance without interference from the state. In the hands of the World Bank, this theory of self-directed, self-built, self-governed housing projects became a justification for defunding public housing. From 1972 forward, World Bank reports commended squatters for their ingenuity and resourcefulness and recommended giving squatters titles to their properties, which would allow them to raise credit and participate in the economy as consumers and borrowers.

Participatory mechanisms installed by the Indian government to deal with water tanks after nationalization depend on principles of accountability at the local level that were invented under colonial rule. They install the duty of the locality to take care of people without necessarily providing the means with which to do so.

We need developers who can learn from the history of futility, and historians who have the courage to constructively encourage a more informed kind of development. "
peertopeer  web2.0  joguldi  2013  conviviality  participation  participatory  government  centralization  centralizedgovernment  self-rule  history  1960s  democracy  democratization  reform  networks  mutualaid  peterkropotkin  politics  activism  banks  banking  patrickgeddes  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  planning  self-governance  worldbank  dudleyseers  gandhi  robertchambers  neelamukherjee  india  thailand  philippines  gis  geography  latinamerica  1970s  squatters  economics  development  africa  cities  resources  mapmaking  cartography  maps  mapping  googlemaps  openstreetmap  osm  ushahidi  crowdsourcing  infrastructure 
march 2013 by robertogreco
The Tower of David - Architecture - Domus
"In the early '90s Caracas dreamed of a shimmering downtown financial centre—now it's the tallest squat in the world"
architecture  building  squatters  skyscraper  caracas  venezuela  torredavid 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Squatters on the Skyline - Video Library - The New York Times
"Facing a mounting housing shortage, squatters have transformed an abandoned skyscraper in downtown Caracas into a makeshift home for more than 2,500 people."

[Dead link, now here: http://www.nytimes.com/video/2011/02/28/world/americas/100000000672239/venezuela-skyscraper.html ]
squatters  squatting  venezuela  caracas  skyscrapers  favelas  diy  housing  homes  torredavid 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The Space Hackers are coming! - Dougald's posterous
"a new kind of spatial agent is emerging: improvisational, bottom-up, working w/ materials to hand; perhaps unqualified, or using training in unexpected ways; responding pragmatically to constrictions & precarities of post-crisis living. Btwn jugaad culture of Indian village, temporary structures built by jobless architects, pop-up shops, infrastructure-savvy squatters & open source shelter-makers, Treehouse Galleries & urban barns & Temporary Schools of Thought, just maybe something new is being born.

…the culture of the Space Hacker…new players have more in common w/ geeks, hippies & drop-out-preneurs who gave us open source & internet revolution, than w/ architects, developers or property industries…

Unlike Silicon Valley, though, these hackers have given up on goal of getting rich.…driven instead by desire to make spaces in which they want to spend time—sociable spaces of living, working & playing - as they, & the rest of us, adjust to the likelihood of getting poorer."
dougaldhine  postmaterialism  postconsumerism  spatial  spacehackers  hackers  diy  make  making  favelachic  post-crisisliving  cv  opensource  architecture  squatters  dropouts  counterculture  spacemaking  unschooling  deschooling  alternative  vinaygupta  rayoldenburg  ivanillich  schools  learning  future  sociability  thirdplaces  postindustrialism  postindustrial  capitalism  marxism  hospitals  healthcare  health  society  improvisation  popup  pop-ups 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Young, urban professional seeks home – vacant premises will do - Home News, UK - The Independent
"The number of people living in squats in England and Wales has risen by 25 per cent in the last seven years, according to new figures. But contrary to popular belief, greater numbers of squatters are now professional, middle class and upwardly mobile."
via:regine  squatting  squatters  property  trends  money  uk  housing  gapyears 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Unsettling the slums - The National Newspaper
"As the teeming cities of the developing world increasingly exclude their slum-dwellers, John Gravois reports from Phnom Penh, where a new prosperity is transforming what was once a city of squatters."
phnompenh  slums  cambodia  squatters  development  cities 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Who’s Afraid of ‘Slumdog’ (and in love with the slums)? - Part II « Javierest
"Sometimes it seems like the better they try to do, looking at informality with a liberal reformist zeal, the more they naturalize it, distancing it from its root causes. Small wonder that architects and planners interested in alleviating informality often treat it with the same lens of biomimicry as green architects looking at nature. Furthermore, it’s no surprise either that Slumdog Millionaire is faulted precisely for resisting the lure to “learn” from the slums."
javierarbona  culture  architecture  urbanism  cities  favelas  slums  poverty  construction  squatters  informal  productionofspace  elementalchile  teddycruz  improvisation 
march 2009 by robertogreco
Who’s Afraid of ‘Slumdog’ (and in love with the slums)? - Part I « Javierest
"What does “informality” do for architects and why do they get so turned on by it? To many architects and planners, when it comes to housing and entrepreneurship, nobody does it better than those who shoulder the worst burdens of poverty. It’s an extreme spectator sport, watching in awe—often just through the web, the Economist, or the movies—as people build out of fridges, scrap metal or whatever comes along. Not to deny the skill of these folks; hey, I wish I could build like that. But once again, what does this fetish really ‘do’ for architects, planners, and even artists? Is it that it challenges our notions (us Westerners, that is) of scale and time?"
javierarbona  culture  architecture  urbanism  cities  favelas  slums  poverty  construction  squatters  informal  productionofspace  improvisation 
march 2009 by robertogreco
SLUMS: The problem « LEBBEUS WOODS
"There is much that is admirable in the way that slum dwellers struggle against overwhelming adversity, but admiration must be tempered by the realization that they do not struggle because they choose to, out of principle, or in the service of high social or political ideals, but because of their desperation at the brutal limits of survival. It is a mistake—and a grave disservice to them—to imagine that their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and capacities for self-organization can in any way serve as models for our present global society. To believe so would be to endorse the dog-eat-dog ethics that rule their lives and, all too often, those occupying society’s more economically advantaged classes. To believe so would be to endorse the most cynical and degraded vision of the human future imaginable, a throw-back to the barbarous 19th century perversion of believing in ideas such as ‘the survival of the fittest’ and ‘the nobility of poverty,’ which justified the blatant exploitation of many by a few.

The only thing we can learn from slums today is that they cannot be tolerated in any form, or under any circumstances; that poverty, their most terrible feature, must, as rapidly as possible, be alleviated; that the wealth and resources of any community—which prominently includes its human resources—cannot be controlled for the benefit of an elite, under whatever name or ideology it goes; that the survival of the emergent, global society depends on its reformation of institutions—public and private—presently managing society’s material and cultural wealth; and that reform must come not by violence from the lower social strata, but from enlightened leadership from the higher, if not the highest, strata of the social and economic structure."
architecture  politics  poverty  slums  urbanism  squatters  lebbeuswoods  urban 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Subtopia: Squatter Imaginaries
"One of the most intriguing facets of Dionisio Gonzalez's photographic constructions is that they immediately question the viewer's knowledge of what a "slum" actually looks like and what are the political forces that shape slums."
architecture  art  cities  installation  photography  poverty  slums  favelas  brasil  dionisiogonzalez  lebbeuswoods  urban  urbanism  landscape  neighborhoods  planning  design  squatting  bryanfinoki  squatters  politics  culture  brazil 
november 2007 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read