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Professur Andrea Deplazes Architektur + Konstruktion Departement Architektur ETH Zürich

URBAN LIVING / S TÄ DT I S C H E S W O H N E N S A N J O S É C O S T A R I C A TH E H E A RT O F TH E C IT Y R E V I S ITE D

Programmvorschlag eines selbstgewählten Themas der Master-Arbeit Im Frühjahrssemester 2012 Thema B entsprechend: architektonisches Ensemble Philip John Shelley HS 2011


Foreword

THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

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fig. 1: S체dliche G채rten, Paul Klee, 1919


SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Foreword

Philip Shelley Zürich, 29th November 2011

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neither heating nor cooling (nor thermal insulation) should ever be necessary. This will be grounded in the construction itself, as well as of course, the idea of urban dwelling that is desirable and possible in the heart of the city. Urbanistically, and this tallies with many of the Costa Rican studies, the project is intended to explore the currently squandered potential of the urban grid – the basis of the centre – which will still be there when all the present buildings are long gone. The form, in this case not colonial, but rather the rational response to the need / desire for a metropolis in the economic centre of a burgeoning agricultural nation. The processes at work in any real city are complex. It is hoped that the nature of the work here does not unnecessarily simply any part of this reality. It is, however, an architectural investigation – and every picture has a frame, a limit. This document represents an effort and desire on my part to turn my attention and energies in a single direction for the final year of my Masters studies. Having three Wahlfacharbeiten left to complete, I will deploy these as self-contained instruments to broaden and deepen the central thread of the project. Without these, the project would be weaker or even impossible. We have finite time and energy at our disposal, after all. This document is in certain respects incomplete, the precise brief can only be anticipated. So there will be much to do in the time between now and February, preparing the necessary drawings in particular, and fine-tuning the brief and program. Nevertheless, I hope the material set out here is sufficient to demonstrate the potential of this work to make a positive contribution to the output and interests of the D-ARCH as a whole. It would be an honour and a pleasure to be able to continue this research over the months ahead, and to develop an architectural project to test the hypotheses made here – the speculative made concrete.

Foreword

The program of work set out here has its roots in a research study I conducted with colleagues from London during the month of August this summer, which was set in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. That project considered the forms of weak urbanism in the periphery of the region, and imagined new approaches to development in which sustainability and social issues were at the centre of the work. The opportunity to pursue an entirely separate but parallel theme in the same region, but focusing on the centre of San José itself, and to engage with the ongoing research and discourse in Costa Rica is a invaluable opportunity, and one which I hope to demonstrate is of wider relevance. Not just because the issues addressed here are in themselves relevant, but because of the paradigmatic example San José represents for that not-so-spectacular beast, the medium-sized city, in which the majority of the urban inhabitants worldwide live and the way in which social, climatic, urban constructional and architectural issues can be pursued in a single project of design research. San José is the capital city of a small country and it can be used, much like the country itself, as a laboratory for innovation – a small sample, a microcosm of Latin American urbanism. The project returns to the heart of the city, to a place which was the wellspring of modern San José. The over-arching theme is of urban renewal, yet the ultimate focus is architecture. This reflects not an unfounded faith in the regenerative power of an urban object, even in this case, the transformation of an urbane block – but rather a recognition of what I, and we, are best capable of contributing to the work already done in this field, and an insistence on the amount of content even a single building can bear, given that any built construction is the result of innumerable influences, prevailing conditions, and of course, ideas. The project then, architecturally hopes to envisage a sustainable urban architecture – making the most of all conditions inherent to Costa Rica, especially the climate of the valley itself, in which


fig. 2: Summary Curiculum Vitae, Philip Shelley

Cambridge Bolles+Wilson 2010

ETH Bearth & Deplazes

Peer Review of the Münster School of Architecture, Germany

Long & Kentish 2009

Z&L

2008

Founded OED with two partners in London Architectural Research Project, Costa Rica

Work 2007

Münster

2006

Oxford Conference on Architectural Education

2005

London

England

Studies

Collaboration and Teaching Assistant with Prof. Christopher Alexander Architecture Sans Frontières Summer School

2004

England

London

Background

Prof. Tom Emerson Dr Sascha Roesler

Prof. Tony Fretton

Prof. Andrea Deplazes

Peter Wilson & Julia Bolles-Wilson

MJ Long Sir Colin St John Wilson

Tom Emerson & David Kohn

Prof. Nabeel Hamdi

Prof. Christopher Alexander Dr James Campbell

Influences

Model Making for Black Mountain College Exhibition Architecture Sans Frontières Summer School

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THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

2011 2012

Masters Project

Office for Environmental Design


SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Table of Contents

I.

Brief Outline of Costa Rica

6

II.

Introduction

8

III.

Project Overview

20

IV.

Scope & Methodology

22

V.

Research & Analysis

24

i. San José and the GAM ii. Site Selection iii. The Climate of the Central Valley iv. Tropical Architecture v. Costa Rican Urban Architecture vi. Seismic Design of Buildings VI.

Elective Papers

66

i. The Typological Potential of the Hectare Block ii. The Patterns of Tropical Domestic Architecture Provisional Brief & Program

74

VIII.

Base Materials

76

IX.

Deliverables

77

X.

Key Dates

78

XI.

Literature

79

XII.

Evaluation

81

XIII.

Appendices

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VII.

Contents

iii. Urban Simulations of San José


THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

Costa Rica

Florida

Cuba

Domican Republic

Mexico Jamaica

Haiti

Puerto Rico

Honduras El Salvador

Nicaragua

Costa Rica Venezuela Panama Switzerland

Guyana Columbia

Fr. Guyana Surinam

Brazil

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Costa Rica

fir. 3: Costa Rica, in the context of Latin America and the Caribbean

CR/CH As has often been remarked, there are many similarities and affinities between Costa Rica and Switzerland, including a strong democratic tradition; neutrality (Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948) and stability; excellent environmental performance, both coming in the top three worldwide; similar area and population

CR / Intro / Overview / Scope and Methodology / Analysis / Wahlfacharbeiten / Brief / Base Material / Deliverables / Dates/ Literature / References / Evaluation / Appendices


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Costa Rica 7

fig. 4: The Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) is located in the Central Valley (here shown in red)

KEY DATA Geography: Land area Water area Total area Land Boundaries Coastline Lowest Point Highest Point

51,060 sq km 40 sq km 51,100 sq km 639 km 1,290 km Pacific Ocean 0 m Cerro Chirripo 3810 m

Economics: GDP per capita: $11,300 Public Debt. 47% GDP Education Expenditure 6.3%

Population: Total Population: 4.5 m Urban Population: 2.8 m (63%) San José: 1.416 m GAM: 60% population, 4% territory Annual Population Growth: 1.5% Annual Urban Population Growth: 3.2% Urban population in a precarious situation: 13%

Principal economic activity: Agricultural exports, Tourism, High-tech sector

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Introduction

THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

fig. 5: The eastern reaches of the Central Valley: Paraiso (left), the site of the design study conducted over the course of the summer, and Cartago (right). Compact towns established on grids, in an arcadian landscape

CR / Intro / Overview / Scope and Methodology / Analysis / Wahlfacharbeiten / Brief / Base Material / Deliverables / Dates/ Literature / References / Evaluation / Appendices


SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Introduction 9

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Introduction

THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

fig. 6: The beauty of the Central Valley: the hills on the eastern flank of San JosĂŠ, dividing the valley in two

CR / Intro / Overview / Scope and Methodology / Analysis / Wahlfacharbeiten / Brief / Base Material / Deliverables / Dates/ Literature / References / Evaluation / Appendices


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Introduction 11

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Introduction

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fig. 7: An Overview of downtown San JosĂŠ from the 17th floor, facing South East.

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Introduction 13

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Introduction

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fig. 8: The horizontal expansion of the city, carpet-like, the dense subdivision of available flat land Informal housing in Barrio La Carpio, on the Western periphery of San JosĂŠ

CR / Intro / Overview / Scope and Methodology / Analysis / Wahlfacharbeiten / Brief / Base Material / Deliverables / Dates/ Literature / References / Evaluation / Appendices


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Introduction 15

Photo Credit: Robin Shelley

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Introduction

THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

fig. 9: The horizontal expansion of the city, carpet-like, the dense subdivision of available flat land Barrio La Carpio, on the Western periphery of San JosĂŠ

Photo Credit: Robin Shelley

CR / Intro / Overview / Scope and Methodology / Analysis / Wahlfacharbeiten / Brief / Base Material / Deliverables / Dates/ Literature / References / Evaluation / Appendices


SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Introduction

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apart from the concentration of Coffee wealth, land ownership was traditionally widespread. The task at hand is one of imagination, and of a synthesis of research which I believe we at the ETH are suited to provide. The goal is to develop a vision for how life at the heart of the city could be attractive and possible for all parts of society. The means of representation and ways of working at our disposal are well suited for the task. The Urban Order The core of San José is the original square grid, based on square blocks roughly one hectare in size. Within this heterogenous core, the density of the city is often surprisingly low, and the uses and heights fantastically mixed. Meanwhile, there is a great need for housing for all parts of society, and a latent demand for living within the city, despite its problems. For the growing middle classes, there are few options available to them, and few visions they might aspire to apart from the security of a walled condominium development, and the regular escape into the countryside somewhere, along with the million tourists that visit the country each year. The concept of sustainable urban living is still latent. The ultimate focus of the project is a single urban block at the city centre, in which a sustainable housing typology for San José can be developed, and in which an approach to the block as an urban unit might inform the overall regeneration of the rest of the urban grid. For the purposes of the Masters design project, an urban block within the city will serve as the site, and be the focus of attention. The programme for the research and analysis will entail a wider, speculative investigation, through which new strategies for the urban grid, and perhaps unconventional construction methods should be considered – that ideally would contain the basis for the transformation for the predominant building culture, which is increasingly dependent on reinforced concrete. The work will be firmly grounded in the present realities of the country, and on the work of previous available studies.

Introduction

In this urban age, the largest metropolitan centres attract the most attention. Yet the majority of urban inhabitants worldwide still live in small to medium-sized cities. According to the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, 47% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean live in small and medium-sized cities, distributed over approximately 13,000 individual municipalities, in a region that is as a whole comparatively highly urbanised. The core of San José, the capital of Costa Rica, falls within the upper end of the mediumsized bracket. It has been allowed to grow without effective restrictions over the past thirty years, both through informal incursion into the hinterland of the city, and by more formalised processes of development. Even during this time, the first real regional planning instruments came into effect, but have largely presided over this carpet-like expansion, whilst the centre of the city has been increasingly abandoned and neglected, despite much of the infrastructure remaining in tact. This project is set against this context, and within the great body of work conducted in the country over the past decade – especially the interdisciplinary study, PRUGAM, which ran between 2002 and 2008. As part of that study, a new planning framework for the region was developed in detail, with the institutional basis for it to become law – but in the end wasn‘t adopted. And whilst the diagnosis of the centre is relatively complete, there still exists a pressing need to develop a vision for the regeneration of the downtown area of the city. The strategy that PRUGAM proposed was the creation of compact, multifunctional urban centres, and identified capacity for the radical densification of much of the city centre. The Idea of the City The greater obstacle however is that the idea of the city is almost lost in people’s minds. The resulting socioeconomic spatial segregation threatens to undermine the very fabric of society, in Costa Rica, this has always been proportionately more egalitarian than other Latin American countries –


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Introduction

THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

fig. 10: Brutal modernism Downtown San JosĂŠ, The imposing CCSS tower in the centre of the image.

CR / Intro / Overview / Scope and Methodology / Analysis / Wahlfacharbeiten / Brief / Base Material / Deliverables / Dates/ Literature / References / Evaluation / Appendices


SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

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Introduction

Conditions In the country as a whole there have been significant structural economic developments – the birth of a high-tech, service industry, largely concentrated in the Central Valley. A burgeoning tourism industry, and with it, a real estate market that increasingly resembles any popular holiday region. San JosÊ is at an impasse, in which it can determine its future. It does possess strength and reliance on a highly bureaucratic democratic order, but is largely restricted by the fiscal situation of the government, which reduces the capability for internal investment. Investment is thus largely led by the private sector, and development channelled through the machinations of the Ministry for Housing and Urbanism (INVU). Costa Rica has many advantages for realising such an ambition, including its climate, modest size and secure energy supply. The country is proud to care for its ecological wealth and biological diversity, and has recently set itself the ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021. In social and environmental policy, the country has been a form of laboratory, where progressive strategies have historically been able to be implemented within short time frames. The challenge then is for the culture of building in the country to transform itself into another sustainable part of its culture and economy.


THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

Project Overview

Masters Project Professor

Prof. Andrea Deplazes Prof. Hubert Klumpner

Fachdozent

Dr. Sascha Roesler

Professur Deplazes

Supervisors

Margarita Salmer贸n Preparation Semester

Professur Deplazes

Accompanying Subjects

Marcel Baumgartner Design Semester

Professur Deplazes

Prof. Joseph Schwartz Prof. Hubert Klumpner

Structural Design (Seismic) Planning / Urban Design

Chapter Title

Co-examiner

Supporting Elective Papers 20

Wahlfacharbeiten Supervisors

Dr. Sascha Roesler Prof. Hubert Klumpner Jan Halatsch

Professur Deplazes Chair for Information Architecture

Dialogues Contacts

Prof. Christopher Alexander Gastprof. Tony Fretton Nicholas Lobo Brennan Richard Prest

Studio Tom Emerson Office for Environmental Design

CR / Intro / Overview / Scope and Methodology / Analysis / Wahlfacharbeiten / Brief / Begleitsf盲cher / Base Material / Deliverables / Dates/ Literature / References / Evaluation / Appendices


SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

September – November 30.

December – February 20.

February 20. – May 10.

Elective Papers / Wahlfacharbeiten: i. The Typological Potential of the Hectare Block ii. The Patterns of Tropical Domestic Architecture iii. Urban Simulations of San José

Preparation Semester:

Masters Project: Urban Ensemble for San José

Research & Analysis Documentation Definition of brief and programme

Additional Subejcts: i. Structural Design ii. Planning / Urban Design

fig. 11 The whole endeavour

Overview

Project Structure

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The general structure of the project makes use of the opportunity the course structure of the MSc ETH Arch represents – in using the three remaining elective papers in order to establish an approach allowing sufficient space for both design and research over the course of two semesters. With the largerscale issues represented in the elective work, and

supported by the work conducted this semester, the Masters thesis project itself is freed somewhat to cover other ground, and can serve to envision and test quite tangibly, architecturally, the analysis and hypotheses generated by the study. In such a case, the infrastructure and resources of the D-ARCH come into their own, offering a unique support structure for such an endeavour.


THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

Scope and Methodology

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Scope

THE URBAN ORDER The Idea of the City The hectare block Typological Studies Capacity / Density / Need

Initial Field Research / Desk Research

Field Research / Documentation Exising Fabric / Site Selection Detailed Site Strategy

Brief & Program

Architectural Project

THE ARCHITECTURAL ORDER Construction / Culture / Climate / Use Ideas of Dwelling

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SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

This Masters Project is based on the interrogation of the urban and architectural conditions in Costa Rica in several levels of scale – developing hypotheses which will ultimately be investigated and tested in a concrete design task – and architectural ensemble within a single city block that is primarily for housing. The choice of site, has been to a certain extent arbitrary, since one could begin in principle anywhere, but the area chosen identified so far is both suitable and poignant as a place. A an urban block has been identified for the purposes of the design project, serving as an archetypical treatment of comparable grid blocks that form the fabric of the heart of the city.

The insight gained from the elective papers will form the basis for the knowledge that informs the final design process, and the means of discussion and communication in order to:

• Articulate a tropical domestic architecture for • • • • • • • •

the city redefine urban sustainability uncover the potential of the urban grid / block reform the idea of the city create the basis socially integrated space strengthen the public realm the potential of the street section / transformation Understand Costa Rican culture and way of life engage with both formal and informal processes

Methodology

The preparation thus follows a rigorous research process to define the parameters of the brief and the overall aims of the project.

• Seismic Design of Buildings • Renewable Energy

Topics for consideration: Regional and Urban Planning Site Selection Housing in Costa Rica Climate of the Central Valley Sustainable Construction Robustness

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• • • • • •


THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

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Analysis

The Central Valley

fig. 12: The Location of the GAM in relation to the provinces

fig. 13: View to the Pacific Looking over the Western edge of San JosĂŠ beyond to the province of Guanacaste and the Pacific Ocean

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SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Analysis 25

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THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

Gran Área Metropolitana, GAM

Analysis

fig. XX fig. XX

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San José

fig. XX

5

0

5

10 km

fig. 14: The Greater Metropolitan Area, GAM

Total population: 2.3 million, 60% of the national population Area: 2,044 sq km Orginal conception of GAM as a planning instrument: 1968 The largest conurbations in the region: San José, Heredia, Alajuela and Cartago

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SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Alajuela

San José

Cartago

Volcan Irazu

Analysis 27

fig. 15: Looking North-West along the Central Valley Image constructed from satellite elevation data at a 30 metre resolution. The vertical dimension is amplified for clarity. In reality, the slopes of the surrounding volcanoes are gentle, forming scenic vistas within the cities themselves.

Credit: NASA

fig. 16: The Greater Metropolitan Area, GAM Comparable in scale to the metropolitan region surrounding Zürich

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THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

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Analysis

San José

fig. 17: View of central San José, looking south

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Analysis 29

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THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

San José

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Analysis

fig. 18: Urban Panorama View of San José in a postcard from the early C20th. National Archives of Costa Rica

fig. 19 San José c.1918

Credit: University of North Texas Library

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SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Analysis 31

fig. 20: Plan representing the interior of the city of San José in 1851

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THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

1986

1996

2004

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Analysis

Results of the PRUGAM planning study Trends Urban sprawl in areas of lower land value Environmental degradation due to low density urban growth pattern Very few journeys made by bicycle or on foot Linear growth pattern along roads Closed condominium developments becoming the norm Social segregation, geographic concentration of high income class (e.g. in Curridibat, Escazu) Density Typical densities in central San José El Carmen district 23 units / ha. Catedral district 65 units / ha. Hospital district 73 units / ha. Bogota average density 210 units / ha. Central London 250 – 500 units / ha.

Identified Problems Urban sprawl / low density Commuting and long travelling times, congestion Health effects in urban population Urban expansion into areas which are vulnerable to natural risks such as flooding and landslides – precarious territories. The decay of the city centre. Relatively poor public transport provision / network. Main concerns Sense of loss of the nation’s capital city, and of the idea of the city. Under-used urban infrastructure, spare capacity Low private and public investment in city centre, whilst investment is made elsewhere for private gain. New projects largely commercial Informal economy Poor public space Growing sense of insecurity Characteristics Urban Grid Irregular pattern in urbanised areas Small local municipal cities Linear growth

fig. 21: Restricting and concentrating the growth of the cities The strategy proposed by PRUGAM suggested limiting growth to the central area of the metropolis

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SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

fig. 23: Forced to the periphery, on precarious lands Bajo de Los Anonos

fig. 24: Retreating into the periphery The Hills of Escazu

Additional population: 624,400 people Additional housing units: 156,100

Analysis

PRUGAM plan envisaged the next 20 years of development, to accommodate a regional population of up to 3.6 million people.

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fig. 25: The Southern Districts of San José It was to the south of the city that the majority of the explosive horizontal growth took place in the past thirty years

PRUGAM Strategy for the selection of densifiable zones. Slopes smaller than 20%. Selection of the areas with the best existing sewage systems. Possible achievable density in the centre of San José 600 residents / ha. (4 people per household) Potential for Densification in San José Area analysed: 10,406 ha. Area suitable for densification: 1,040.6 ha. Potential density: 600 residents / ha: 600 fig. 25: The Social Segregation Red areas show new concentrations of poverty, the green, old incursions

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THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

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Analysis

Area Shown Overleaf

fig. 26: Infrared Image of the Central Valley

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SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

Site Strategy – The Heart of the City 25 centro. Su principal eje de acción deber

á estar dirigido a la recuperación de

espacios públicos, minimización del impac

to de los centros comerciales y de la

carretera de circunvalación, planteando

secuencias de recorridos con el

aprovechamiento del recurso natural (Ríos Ma

ría Aguilar y Tiribí), en coordinación

de iniciativas municipales como la construcción del Parque de Hatillo a orillas del río María Aguilar. El siguiente mapa muestra la descrip

ción de las áreas antes descritas.

Area Shown on Following Pages

Analysis 35

fig. 27: The street network of central San José

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THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

36

Analysis

THE SITE 1 ha.

fig. 28: The topography and rivers of central San JosĂŠ

500

0

500

1000 m

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SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA

SAN JUAN

SAN MARTON

CALLE BLANCOS

Area Shown on Following Pages

ARANJUEZ

MERCEDES

Analysis

THE SITE

37

CENTRAL DISTRICT

CATEDRAL

SAN SEBASTIAN

fig. 29: The built fabric of central San José

500

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0

500

1000 m


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Analysis

A possible site

fig. 30: Aerial view of Barrio Aranjuez and its surroundings

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A V E N U E

11

Hospice

del A

9

tlant

ico

Thea

tre

cion

A V E N U E

ch

Analysis

Esta

Chur

C A L L E Galle ry

2 3

Hospital

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Railway

Inter-American Highway

fig. 31: Barrio Aranjuez – Basic overview plan, showing the block chosen as the site

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Analysis

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fig. 32: The threshold of barrio Aranjuez, view looking south towards the city centre

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Aranjuez

fig. 33: Iglesia Santa Teresita, Calle 23

An account of its history:

The water reservoirs that fed the iron pipes with the water for the City of San José were located in Aranjuez. This project was completed on August 25, 1868.

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La Calle de la Estación (Station Street), later referred to as the “Avenida de Los Damas” (Avenue of Ladies), consisted of the area between the Atlantic Railroad Station and Parque Morazán. Because of its location, it became the entry point to the City of San José and the gathering center for the bourgeoisie. The Parque Nacional (National Park), the Monumento a los Héroes de The Parque Nacional (National Park), the Monumento a los Héroes de 1856 (Monument to the Heroes-inaugurated on September 15, 1895), bridges, steps, sidewalks

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The first electric power station, inaugurated on August 9, 1884, was built in Aranjuez on the southwest corner of the Hospital. This allowed the installation of electric street lamps – with which, San José became the third city in the world, and the first in Latin America to have electrical lighting, preceded only by Paris and New York. Initially, the lighting service covered the area from the train station to the Del Carmen Church, and from there to the Parque Central , and then on to other parts of the city. Thanks to the energy generated by the Pelton Wheel which was installed in Aranjuez by Manuel V. Dengo and Luis Batres in 1892, the electrical lighting of the incandescent system was made available to homes.

The Atlantic Station was of critical importance to the development of our capital city. The movement of goods coming from outside the country and from the interior, and the main sources of communication outside the country and between the cities in the Central Valley, were all concentrated at the Atlantic Station. The railroad that connected San José and Limon, and the trolley system dating back to 1899, were both housed at this station.

Analysis

In making an intervention in the heart of the city, one area that stood out in particular as a place to begin, because of its many qualities and continuing significance. The area is the barrio of Aranjuez, part of the el Carmen district, one of the four districts at the core of the city. Aranjuez is located on an area of high ground adjacent to the CBD of the city, with views out to the surrounding hillsides. The district today is very sparsely inhabited with an average density of only 23 inhabitants per hectare, with the many of the original houses the bourgeoisie built here in the late 19th century, and many other smaller lots of working class housing, alongside many important public buildings, including the Calderon Guardia Hospital, two university complexes. The richness and diversity of the public infrastructure in this quarter is a good reason to begin here.


THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

and walls, are all constant reminders of an era of prosperity in San José, from the end of the C19th to the first half of the C20th. The Avida de Los Damas was declared a place of cultural interest on the 19 of May, 1994.

Analysis

The old Customs Building, inaugurated in 1891, complemented the services provided by the Atlantic Railroad Station. The old Customs building was used for the warehousing, registration and dispatching of goods that entered the country via the Atlantic Railroad. This 4,160 sqm building, built completely with bricks, is one of the largest buildings in the City of San José that has been preserved from the C19th. Today, the old Customs Building is now a cultural centre and exhibition space. The Currency House was also part of the Customs and Railroad complex. It was located initially in front of the Station, from its opening in 1917 to its closure in 1949, houses the Aduana Theater, located at the east corner of the Main Customs Building. This building which is now a historical landmark, consists of a huge gallery of metallic structure and sheets of tin on its walls.

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fig. XX Theatro de la Aduana, housed in the former Currency Exchange

The development of the Aranjuez neighborhood was touched by all of these factors that attracted a large number of families to its territory, especially after the Cartago Earthquake of 1910. Luis Llac Llagostera, designer and architect of the Palacio de Correos (the Post Office Building), was one of the distinguished persons that lived in Aranjuez. The Eloisa Movie Theater opened. In 1925 Santiago Sabatino built the Trípoli Movie Theater. During the 1950s Santiago Duran opened the Aranjuez Movie Theater in a building North of the Aranjuez Hotel. Today this building houses administrative offices for the Costa Rican Social Security Administration. The Santa Teresita Church, which opened in 1920, consolidated the Aranjuez Neighborhood as having the largest concentration of bourgeoisie residents. This church designed by architect José Maria Barrantes, is one of

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Analysis

fig. XX: An existing apartment building on the other side of the tracks from the train station

In 1939, the construction of a house for children began on the North side of the old reservoirs that supplied the City of San José with water. This construction was halted due to lack of funding. It became the foundation of the first Social Security Hospital. In 1942, during the administration of Dr. Calderon Guardia, the land and what was already built on it was given to the newly founded Social Security Administration of Costa Rica. The construc-

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tion of the two story building was completed in 1945, and it was called the “El Policlínico del Seguro Social” (The Policlinic of the Social Security). Since that time, the constructions, the remodeling and purchases of neighbouring land by the Social Security Administration have not stopped, hence the total transformation of the Aranjuez neighborhood. Many homes were demolished and many more were converted to clinics, and medical offices or they were bought or leased for business purposes, soda fountains, restaurants, photocopying, pharmacies, etc. In 1952, the Policlínica, after undergoing a remodel which increases the number of beds to 200, changed its name to Hospital Central, and then later to the Calderon Guardia.

43

the best examples of the neoclassic style in our country; it has a basilica made up of three wings, Corinthian and Ionic columns, and windows with timbals. For its construction, a new technological innovation was used, reinforced concrete and a structure imported from Belgium. The Santa Teresita Church was declared a Historic Landmark on February 18, 1999.


THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED

fig. 36: Antigua Aduana

fig. 37: The Atlantic Station

fig. 38: The converted gallery space with its original iron structure

fig. 39: A view down the side of the selected block

fig. 40: A newly renovated building, part of the customs complex

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Analysis

fig. 35: Antigua Aduana – interior before conversion

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fig. 41: Water access hatch

fig. 42: The theatre and the railway line (more like a tram line)

Analysis

fig. 43: View from further up looking South 45

Intersection of public functions, infrastructure and topography will all shape the attitude developed to the site – which provisionally has been indicated as the urban block directly opposite from the church.

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Analysis

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fig. 44: The public space between the two gallery buildings, looking towards St. Teresita

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Analysis 47

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Analysis

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fig. 45: An outlook from a studio on the second floor on a building by the train lines

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Analysis 49

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Analysis

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fig. 46: Timber panelling and tin roof

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Analysis 51

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Research & Analysis

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Analysis

Sustainable Construction The challenge and severity of the urban situation, combined with a certain complacency has meant that many of the considerations of the impact of buildings, increasingly present in our minds, is far from the centre of attention in Costa Rica. Coming to the context from the outside, and knowing the ambition of the government for sustainability (in fact, since the 90’s the entire country has been rather organised around the idea of sustainable development), one thing is at least clear – that the small size of the country means that it is easy to picture it as an entire system as whole – the fundamentals of the economy, of the real estate market, of the success of social and environmental policy, amongst others are relatively straightforward to grasp, in comparison with a large and highly connected country. When you consider the culture of building as a whole, that is to say all of the processes which are involved in the generation of the built environment, and given the statistics (available online) for the construction industry, you can almost picture the system as a whole – the activity of building, constantly rearranging the world for our own ends, causing flows of materials, and the expending of labour and energy. Then, the question arises, taking a longer view – with what means should this culture best build – as a whole. Could it perhaps develop a highly sophisticated timber construction industry – based on the renewable forestry, as a carbon sink, with the resulting timber products kept, via carbonisation, in a stable state almost indefinitely? What drives the transformation of such practices? Can the pressure of the status quo be overcome, can the exigencies of today be seen for what they are? The promise of rethinking construction is that it would provide the basis for a more robust and beautiful architecture, which arises from the best possible use of the resources and skills available. The proper consideration of materials relies on the accounting of embodied carbon dioxide and the instrument of life-cycle-analysis. Perhaps it goes without saying, but the expected pressures over the coming decades will make innovation all the more neces-

sary. The development of hybrid constructions, using cement in smaller quantities in the construction

Robustness The temperate tropical conditions found in the Central Valley provide conditions which certainly are less extreme than the typical hot-humid zone – where solar radiation, heat, humidity and relentless rainfall create tough conditions for the preservation of any kind of building. The greatest threat to timber in this climate appears not to be rot, but rather the insidious termite... whose inroad are only too late discovered and whose effects can be devastating. Despite this proviso – there are still two kinds of robustness that are essential for creating an enduring urban architecture – the inherent resistance to decay, whether by the nature of the materials chosen, or by the design of components, and secondly the robustness of the building over a much longer period – its transformation over time – which is dependent on the capacity for change – the ease of maintenance, repair and replacement of individual elements – its temporal resemblance of an organism. The first concern is almost certainly the greatest hurdle to overcome when it comes to the inclusion of more natural materials in the construction – for the perception of modernity associated with steel and concrete is partly due to this apparent victory over nature... of course, insurance and mortgage finance also becomes complicated / difficult the more one deviates from the norm. For reference in this issue, the best source is certainly the extant buildings in the country, and the insight of the wise and the innovative Costa Rican architects. There is an ongoing research program at the TEC – The ETH of Costa Rica, which is specifically looking into innovative construction methods, which this project hopes to connect to. The question remains as to whether these are suitable for the urban environment, or are intended for other fields of application.

fig. 47: An older building culture The ruined monastery near Paraiso, a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Renewable Energy

Costa Rica is located in a region of high seismic activity – part of the ring of fire of the pacific rim. The country is young, but already in its short history there have been a number of devastating

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and the construction methods used in Costa Rica has been large. It was earthquakes that unsettled the “traditional” Spanish adobe and solid masonry construction from being ubiquitous, and led to the reinvention of hybrid forms for domestic architecture, including bamboo reinforced masonry, and plaster infill. The process of standardisation that followed over the course of the 20th century, in the establishment of engineering standards, and the arrival of cement caused the greatest transformation, raising massive concrete construction to the default construction solution for larger buildings, and reinforced concrete blockwork as the equivalent for domestic construction. The behaviour of non-reinforced massive construction, such as adobe, brick, and rammed earth was sufficiently unpredictable, and cast into the shadows of modernity by the new technologies. The scarcity and extremely high costs of procuring brick in the region today is a direct result of this cultural trend. Once, the clays of this fertile valley were the basis of a flourishing ceramic and brick industry – the rich ferrous soils holding

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Seismic Design of Buildings

fig. 48: Location of seismic events worldwide

Analysis

Costa Rica is a country rich in renewable energy, with many dense energy sources created by the climate – intense sunlight all year round, heavy precipitation, and good winds in many places. At present, the profile of energy use and its associated economic and environmental impact is largely defined, like Switzerland of another era, by the foundation hydroelectric power provides. Almost all electricity is generated by these means (94%), and the only other significant energy source is imported oil – mostly used for transportation. Despite the low carbon profile of this electricity, there are other environmental costs associated with the construction of dams, and their resulting reservoirs – not least the risk of increased seismic activity. The goal the country is working towards is to be able to source all of its electricity through renewable sources, and to develop its wind and solar capacity to become a new energy exporter in Central America. The profile as a whole is greatly helped by the climate, as the majority of the population live in the Central Valley itself, whose tempered tropical conditions mean that comfortable interior conditions can be easily met throughout the year without the need for heating or cooling. Of course, in many cases, air conditioning is still being used. One aim of this project is to develop an architecture which both takes advantage of these climatic conditions and which responds in a way which air conditioning need never be used. The investment and the focus of the consideration would then be to identified how the buildings themselves could become more autonomous – heating hot water through solar thermal collectors, and perhaps even generating power locally.

earthquakes – the worst of which destroyed most of Cartago, and led to the capital being moved to San José. Costa Rica prides itself on their seismic design prowess and the rigour of their codes, and its engineers are often called upon to assist other countries in the region. Designing for resilience is crucial – and the requirements involved and strategies for different structural types are often surprising, especially for architects used to more stable ground. The influence of seismic activity on the culture of building,


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Analysis

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deep red clays. The history of filigree construction methods in the country is instructive – although there are still vernacular traditions extant in indigenous communities, and elsewhere in the tropical lowlands – where timber frame construction of many kinds is still being employed. The largest strand of construction to draw upon is that of filigree steel structures, which dominate the discourse of tropical architecture, because of their inherent economy, lightness, strength, and architectonic potential. Such structures are ideal from the perspective of seismic design, and in a few of the larger buildings I visited in the summer, it was apparent that there were even examples of de-coupled foundations – in which one can hardly feel small earthquakes. Although in the general run of events, the seismic design of structures for housing is not such an urgent topic – in this case, however, where I hope to be able to pursue innovative themes in construction, I expect that the consideration of these issues would be worthy of consideration. In any event, for any future publication of the resulting strategy within Costa Rica itself, it would be a worthwhile study. And given that I envisage another element entering the program for the site, and perhaps underground works, there may also be opportunity to design structures more demanding than that of the apartment buildings themselves. Fundamental Concepts - Building Weight - Natural period of vibration - Damping - Response Spectrum - Ductility Resisting Seismic Forces - Strength - Stiffness - Torsion - Force Paths Strategies

- Protecting human life - Limiting building damage - Capacity Design - Diaphragms - Collectors and Ties - Shear Walls - Braced Frames - Moment Frames - Foundations - Underground structures - Non-structural elements As reference, the recently published Andrew Charlseon’s Seismic Design for Architects serves this task well, and for an in-depth analysis, well, at least for comparison, the Codigo Sismico, 2002: the seismic design code for Costa Rica will be my guide.

fig. 49: Worst case scenario Effects of an earthquake in Kobe (JP)

The Climate of the Central Valley The climate of Costa Rica is fascinating, its ecological wealth and diversity largely due to the range, around 27, distinguishable micro climates in the country. The Central Valley, is an elevated valley in the centre of the country, a region formed by volcanic tectonic activity. Altitude: 900 – 1200 m altitude in the base of the valley 1850 m peaks. Ecology: The region includes areas of tropical moist montane forests, as well as rainforest, whose existence depends on a mean temperature of 22°C and an annual rainfall of 2300 mm. The soils are volcanic / alluvial, rich in iron, and extremely fertile. Hydrology: in the western part of the valley, comprising lands of medium and high altitude, there are many of the most important hydrological systems in the country, which together provide water for over half the population and for the demands of industry which is largely concentrated in this area – and whose electricity needs are met by hydroelectric power. Climate: The Central Valley is part of a unified volcanic zone extending throughout the country, and itself is comprised of two valleys – the western Central Valley corresponds to the depression of the Rio

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Valley contains some of the driest regions in the entire country, with an average annual rainfall of 700 mm. Architectural consequences: Although the prevailing conditions are almost ideally comfortable Recent Trends in Climate Change (since 1960):

fig. 51: The need for better adaptation to the climate Air-conditioning units are often employed for apartment and office buildings

Climate Data for San José Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Annual

Maximum Temp / °C Minimum Temp /°C Total Rainfall / mm

23.0 16.7 27

23.8 16.9 30

27.7 18.2 33

28.4 18.8 100

27.4 19.0 255

27.0 19.0 260

26.9 19.0 190

27.0 18.7 230

26.9 18.3 323

25.6 17.3 320

24.2 16.5 150

23.8 16.4 50

25.9 16.3 1968

Source: National Meteorological Institute

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The climatic variability can cause extreme weather events. Severe rainfall events are quite common in the western part of the valley, often up to 15 days per year. 75% of these events are related to the presence of La Nina weather system. The dry spells in the western reaches are less severe than those of the east, and temperatures are 1°C higher on average. 79% of the extreme dry periods are associated with the presence of the El Nino weather system. Paradoxically, the eastern part of the Central

Costa Rica as a whole As with other Central American Countries, Costa Rica is considered a primary “hot spot” for climate change in the tropics. An analysis of temperature and precipitation reveal many changes in the extreme values of these variables during period between 1961 and 2003. Temperatures have increased between 0.2 and 0.3°C per decade with a prolonged and hotter dry season. The number of warm days increased by 2.5 percent and nights by 1.7 percent, while the number of cold nights and cold days decreased by -2.2 and -2.4 percent per decade. Temperature extremes increased by between 0.2 and 0.3°C per decade. While most climate data show positive trends

Analysis

fig. 50: Acclimatisation Roofscape in central San José

Grande and the Rio Tarcoles, and is separated from the eastern Central Valley by a range of smaller hills. The region is both affected by the climatic conditions of the Pacific and Caribbean side of the country. In the flatlands of the valley, where the cities are located, a temperate tropical climate reigns. Annual Rainfall: 2300 mm Dry Season: December to April (50–100 mm rainfall per month)

Prognosis for the Central Valley: Maximum Temperatures are projected to increase by +2 to +4°C, while minimum temperatures are projected to increase between +2 to +3°C. Rainfall is projected to increase in the coast, while in the central valley; a tendency for reductions in rainfall is projected.


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Analysis

(increased precipitation), overall average annual precipitation in the region and the number of consecutive wet days do not show significant changes although there has been a slight increase in its intensity; and extreme precipitation has increased significantly and is strongly correlated with the temperature of the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The latter indicates that prolonged rainy seasons are related to the warm waters in that oceanic basin. The trend over the last 40 years suggests a strengthening of the hydrological cycle, with more intense rain occurring during shorter periods of time that produce greater average precipitation per episode. This trend is expected to continue in the future due to climate change, possibly resulting in a greater frequency or intensity of extreme events such as floods and droughts. This poses obvious impacts on agricultural production, soil and forest conservation

Architecture of the City

fig. 52: Avenida Centrale in the 1960s

Sunlight Average 6 hours direct sunlight per day Range 4.1 hrs September – 7.9 Hours Feb to March Key References: National Meteorological Institute: Climate, its Variability and Climate Change in Costa Rica (2008) The World Bank: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Risk of Climate Change, Costa Rica (2011)

fig. 53: Contemporary Office Building

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Analysis 57

fig. 54: The Metal School – imported as a prefabricated kit of parts from Belgium in the late C19th

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fig. 56: House in Curridibat

fig. 57: Balcony spaces A glimpse of the Ministry for Energy and Communications in the central district

fig. 58: Air conditioned bliss Apartment blocks beside the highway in SW San JosĂŠ

fig. 59: Typical detached villa

fig. 60: Brick Skin A recently completed apartment tower near Sabana park, mostly for international buyers

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Analysis

fig. 55: House in Curridibat

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fig. 62: Transformed mediterranean idioms

fig. 63: Building on the University of Costa Rica main campus

fig. 64: Home in the established eastern district

fig. 65: Avenida Centrale

fig. 66: Hotel Aranjuez

Analysis

fig. 61: The Pacific Train Station, SW Central

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Analysis

Visions of Living

fig. 67: Vacation apartments, surely? Concasa housing development

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fig. 68: An interior view of Concasa Every apartment has the same layout

Analysis 61

fig. 69: A room with a view A model apartment in the hills of Escazu.

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Analysis

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fig. 70, 71 Deep balcony spaces with louvres Ignazio Gardella, Anna Castelli Ferrieri and R. Menghi, Condominio Giardino dell’Ercole, Milan 1949–54

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Analysis 63

fig. 72, 73: Tall blocks surrounding gardens Ignazio Gardella, Anna Castelli Ferrieri and R. Menghi, Condominio Giardino dell’Ercole, Milan 1949–54

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Analysis

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fig. 74: Urban figure Alessandro Pasquali, Torre Monforte in via Mascagni, Milan

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fig. 75: The interior as a part of the city Norman Foster, office project

Analysis 65

fig. 76: Heterogenous, massive structural order Christopher Alexander and Ingrid Kind, Sapporo apartment building (unbuilt), Japan 1984

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Elective Paper i.

The Typological Potential of the Hectare Block

Elective Papers

THE URBAN ORDER Supervisor: Prof. Hubert Klumpner Outline Proposal The grid is the defining feature of central San José. Rather rare for a Latin American capital city, the grid was itself not established in the colonial period, but later, however still on the basis of the principles of rational city planning laid down by the Laws of the Andes – the Spanish colonial planning ordnances. The striking feature of the loose development of the heart of the city that has taken place over much of the twentieth century in San José, is that the potential of this grid is somewhat obscured but the current land use and subdivision of lots. It is partly for this very reason that idea of the city itself has been lost. In order to uncover it once again, I return to the unit, the building block of the city, the hectare block, approximately one hundred metres square. The study in this elective paper will forms the core of an understanding of the urban order which will inform the final project. It will consist of:

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• documentation of the existing typologies found in historical and contemporary San José

• comparative scale drawings of the typologies found in Latin America and elsewhere for a grid of comparable size.

• Commentary on these, drawing on wider

themes for the Greater Metropolitan Area of Costa Rica (whose towns all have this grid at their centre), and in Latin America more generally.

fig. 78: Typological transfer Studio Christ & Gantenbein ETHZ

fig. 77: The basis of the urban order at the heart of San José

siderations made – but all have been limited in their scope, in terms of what they imagine possible. Certainly the challenges of the city as it exists today present poses more urgent questions, but the character of the city is perhaps the long emergency, chronic rather than acute – and for which, a study of this nature could provide a valuable contribution. In conversations with architects and planners in San José, the sentiment was continually expressed that the vision of what is possible is what is mostly lacking. In order to gain that understanding for myself, I will engage with this theme. The work will be presented in the form of a book.

These typological studies will focus primarily on the form of housing, and the formation of public space in such an urban order in order to develop a deeper insight into the potential for the disposition of buildings within such a block, the streets they form, and the spaces in between. Already in some of the planning studies conducted in Costa Rica, there have been similar con-

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Elective Paper ii.

The Patterns of Tropical Domestic Architecture THE ARCHITECTURAL ORDER Supervisor: Dr Sascha Roesler (Professur Deplazes)

fig. 79: Deep Overhang (strictly speaking, not tropical, but potentially transferable) Taslik Sark Kahvesi (Oriental Coffee House) 19481950, Macka- Istanbul Sedad Hakki Eldem

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• • • •

Comparative studies Analytical drawings and diagrams Concise descriptions Annotated References

At the scale of the city, it will begin to incorporate successful patterns taken from the first elective paper, “the typological potential of the hectare

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fig. 81: Veranda House A typical example in the pacific lowlands in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

lating to construction, and spatial order relating to material, climate, use, and social meaning. Encompassing many scales, but including the collection and distillation of construction knowledge As a whole this means the densification of practical knowledge, using the power of:

Wahlfacharbetien

fig. 80: The original language Christopher Alexander et al. – the encyclopaedic work on archetypes in the built environment

Outline Proposal The general thesis is that Costa Rica at present, especially in the heart of the city, does not make the most of its climatic conditions. The fact that they almost don’t need to, is quite astonishing, for the conditions are such that comfort is easily obtained. The climate in the region is vulnerable to quite considerable change over the coming century, and so a preemptive adaptation would be a wise measure. And there is simply a lot more pleasure to be had from the architecture in this place. It goes to the heart of the question of dwelling / wohnen in the city of San José. This elective will engage with the theme of tropical architecture – the link between the various building cultures across the hot humid tropical zone. And pick up from the more general critique of modern architecture in these regions. The task of this program of work is to establish the architectural-anthropological dialogue that forms the backbone of the architectural design process. It will be instructive as a tool for generative the brief – use, spatial order, requirements – as well as a work to continually refer to over the course of the project and beyond. It is for this reason, that Dr Sascha Roesler also serves as Fachdozent for the project, for the entire endeavour is shaped by this outlook. Presented ultimately in the form of a catalogue – containing an interrelated set of patterns, that is to say, archetypes for housing in the hot humid tropical zone. These are specifically directed at the culture of Costa Rica, and drawn from case studies there, but also from further afield, from regions whose climate means they share a certain affinity. This means looking to the traditional Vernacular, and contemporary solutions and interpretations from Latin America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Asia (including Japan), in the form of the publications and well established discourse on the subject. This exercise is intended to form one foundation of the eventual design approach, the consolidation and taxonomy of all the related design research re-

fig. 82: Deep eaves and awnings A larger house on the coast of Guanacaste, Costa Rica

block” and combine them with principles of urban order that react to climate – orientation, spacing, wind paths, etc. At the scale of the house, it will draw on patterns such as the veranda and courtyard house, so prevalent in humid tropical zones, as well as looking to elements of larger buildings – anticipating the scale of the eventual ensemble. In more detail, the relation of material, construction method and inhabitation / use will be explored. There may be many patterns found elsewhere that could be successfully translated to the Costa Rican context.


Elective Papers

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Strategies • building orientation • use of the prevailing winds for cross-ventilation • conscious use of reflective, absorbing, and insulating building materials, for roofs and outer walls • use of trees and other barriers for the breaking up the wind and the shading of spaces • use of the evaporation of water for a cooling effect

fig. 83: Strategies for shading and ventilation From Tropical Architecture in the Humid Zone, Maxwell Fry & Jane Drew

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Thermodynamic perspective • Climate / Comfort • Air humidity, Air temperature, Thermal Radiation temp, Air circulation • Relationship to climate / technology

Filigree and massive building techniques, Opaqueness, transparency, mass Post and beam construction Brise de soleil, verandas, roof eaves Vegetation on the edge of buildings Shading of openings Elevated, perforated, shaded structures

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• • • • • • •

Wahlfacharbetien

Tropical Architecture:

This also should include the geographic mapping of building materials within the country, and a description of the culture of building, and the nature of the construction industry. The use of more natural indigenous materials is to be seriously investigated – there is surely ground to be made in this field, and the research efforts of the universities in Costa Rica are also working in this direction. On the other hand, the cultural dimension of concrete is to be taken more subtly than one might think. Adrian Forty’s work on this material is particularly instructive, for it is a material which Latin America has made its own. As well as focusing on the ordinary, the generic, the vernacular, this catalogue will explore and condense the masterworks of tropical architecture, including the inspirational examples of Lina Bo Bardi, Vilanova Artigas, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, amongst many others, will serve as key references, not least in understanding the cultural and architectural potential of the situation. The work will brought together in the form of a book, and serve as a tool for dialogue between Prof. Deplazes, Dr Sascha Roesler and myself over the months ahead. Here shown, are some examples of some of the sources I will be working with (also listed in the bibliography). On the following pages are examples of the work of Simon Vérez, a Colombian architect who has spent his career refining bamboo / hybrid construction techniques.


Elective Papers

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fig. 85: The refinement of a hybrid construction method Filigree

fig. 86: Pavillion Structure Simon VĂŠlez

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Elective Paper iii.

Urban Simulation Studies of San José THE URBAN POTENTIAL Supervisor: Jan Halatsch (Chair of Information Architecture) Outline Proposal The digital tools available today for the parametric generation and simulation of cities are among the most promising technologies currently emerging. When used properly, they can play an important role in urban design and in a communicative planning process. In this case, using software such as ArcMap GIS and CityEngine, the attraction is rather the potency of the tools available – the speed and scale at which large city fabrics can be procedurally generated and modified. For the case of San José, much of the cartographic and statistical data is available from the already existing studies made over the past decade. The aim would be to process this information of the city centre as it currently is in order to be able to:

Elective Papers

• better visualise its current composition, land use and density.

fig. 93: Generated Street Patterns in CityEngine

• generate representations of the city as a whole

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• experiment with modest, and far ranging struc-

tural changes to the city fabric, in order to put the propositions of PRUGAM.

• Scenario testing • Feed the design knowledge won through the typological studies of the hectare block into this process.

fig. 94: Simulation of the core of the city

• As a follow up, incorporate the architectural

form language developed in the Masters project itself to create the fundamental shape grammar for (re) generating the fabric of the city with it.

The product of this work will be presented in the form of plans, tables, diagrams, and rendered images – brought together into a booklet form. The code, and other results generated may also be published elsewhere (especially in Costa Rica) if appropriate, and the studies are deemed a success.

Images

Parcel

GIS

Street

Image

Socioeconomic Data

Visualisation

Simulation

fig. 95: Schematic work flow

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Brief & Programme

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Brief

GENERATION AND REFINEMENT

fig. 96: The Formative Influences of Architectural Form From Andrea Deplazes, Constructing Architecture

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Defining the Brief As outlined above, the brief at this stage can only be anticipated – its generation and refinement will come through the program of work planned between now and February. It will be essential to develop a brief that is clear, and addresses the issues covered in the research. The aims should be clear, and the parameters well constrained in order to generate a consequent scheme under the time available. The brief will be focused on a single block in the area of Aranjuez. The typological studies will provide a wealth of insight into the potential for the ideas of the city, and the continuing research will be used to generate and refine the brief for transforming the block, including: Brief

• Treating the existing structures on the site and the urban context.

• Establishing the overall density of the block.

• The program for an ensemble of apartment

buildings, which provide a range of apartment types.

• A special use – such as a hall, gallery, or nursery

• The creation of semi-public spaces within the block interior

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Possibly including accomodation for up to 600 people.


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Base Material

Planning Documents The Report of the Commission for the Urban Regeneration and Densification of San JosĂŠ, 2003. INVU: Plan Regional Gran Area Metropolitana (GAM). 1986, 2006

Base Materials

PRUGAM Analysis of the Agricultural Zones of the GAM Social Survey Environmental Capacity of the Regions The Institutional Basis of the National Urban Development Plan Strategy for the Improvement for the Transport Network in the Central Region and the Metropolitan Area of San JosĂŠ Livability of the City Dwelling and Human Settlements Study for the Transport Capacity of the City 1:10,000 Plans

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Material Still to Source / Prepare Survey drawings of the site and surrounding buildings Field research / survey Continue to learn Spanish

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Deliverables

Process Book: Outline of project as a whole, including material presented here, the elective papers and the material for the accompanying subjects. Design work: Sketch books Site Model, 1:500 Analysis Map of San JosĂŠ, 1:5000 Site Plan, 1:1000 Plans, Elevations, Sections, 1:200, 1:50 Detail Sections, 1:20, 1:5 Detail Models, 1:5, 1:1 Interior Models, 1:20 Deliverables

Model of the Ensemble, 1:50 Interior and Exterior Perspectives

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Key Dates

1st – 14th February 1st December – 19th February

1.

8th February 20th February

Field research in San José (proposed) Preparation of Wahlfacharbeiten Generation and Refinement of Brief and Program Discussion with all parties, form collaborative links with Costa Rica Submit definitive program Start of the Masters Project

2.

27th February

3.

5th March

4.

12th March

Sessions with Dr Sascha Roesler & Marcel Baumgartner Session for Structural Design

5.

19th March

Sessions with Dr Sascha Roesler & Marcel Baumgartner

6.

26th March

Session with Dr Sascha Roesler & Marcel Baumgartner

7.

2nd April

8.

9th April

9.

16th April

Session with Dr Sascha Roesler & Marcel Baumgartner

10.

23rd April

Final Critic with Prof. Andrea Deplazes

11.

30th April

Session with Dr Sascha Roesler & Marcel Baumgartner

10th May

Submit Masters Project

Session with Prof. Hubert Klumpner Sessions with Dr Sascha Roesler & Marcel Baumgartner 1st Critic with Prof. Andrea Deplazes

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Key Dates

week of

Summer

2nd Critic with Prof. Andrea Deplazes

Session with Prof. Hubert Klumpner

Prepare elective papers further if required. Collect material together into a single publication

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Literature

Klahr, Douglas: Becoming Builders Again in an Age of Global Crisis. Brillembourg, Alfredo / Klumpner, Hubert / Contento, Michael / Sherman, Lindsey: Trans-Borderlands: Activating the Plasticity of Urban Border Space. in: Trans 18, Zurich, 2011.

Lippsmeier, Georg: Tropenbau, Building in the Tropics. 2nd Ed., Munich, 1980. Houben, Hugo / Guillard, Hubert: Earth Construction: a Comprehensive Guide. Marseille, 1989.

Alexander, Christopher et al.: Houses Generated by Patterns. Berkeley, 1969.

Barahona, Luis Diego: Nuevas Lineas de la Arquitectura Contemporanea Costarricense, San José, 2006.

Beigel, Florian et al.: Architecture as City, London 2010 Brillembourg, Carlos (Ed.): Latin American Architecture 1929 – 1960: Contemporary Reflections. New York, 2004.

Forty, Adrian: Cement and Multiculturalism, in: Hernandez, Felipe et al. (Eds): Transculturation: Cities, Spaces and Architectures in Latin America, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 1998.

Quesada, Florencia: Urbanism, Architecture, and Cultural Transformations in San José, Costa Rica, 1850–1930, in:

Hernandez, Felipe: Beyond Modernist Masters: Contemporary Architecture in Latin America. Basel, 2010

Imparato, Ivo / Ruster, Jeff: Slum Upgrading and Participation: Lessons from Latin America. Washington, 2003.

Charleson, Andrew: Seismic Design for Architects, Architectural Press, 2008

Deplazes, Andrea (Ed.): Constructing Architecture, Materials, Processes, Structures, 2nd Ed. Basel, 2008.

Lehmann, Steffen: The Principles of Green Urbanism: Transforming the City for Sustainability, London, 2010.

J. Tyrwhitt / J. L. Sert / E. N. Rogers: The Heart of the City: Towards the Humanisation of Urban Life CIAM 8, International Congresses for Modern Architecture, New York, 1952.

Davis, Mike: Magical Urbanism, London, 2000.

Roesler, Sascha: Konstruktion der Konstruktion, Doctoral Dissertation ETH Zurich, 2011.

Emmanuel, Rohinton: An Urban Approach to Climate-Sensitive Design: Strategies for the Tropics, London, 2005.

Vegesack, Alexander / Kries, Mateo: Grow Your Own House: Simon Velez und die Bambusarchitektur. Basel, 2002.

Gigon / Guyer, Wohnhochhäuser, Zürich, 2010.

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Hyde, Richard: Climate Responsive Design, London, 2000 Literature

Almandoz, Arturo: Planning Latin America’s Capital CIties 1850 – 1950. London, 2002.

de Vries, Jaap, et al.: Environmental Management of Small and Medium Sized Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Washington, 2001. Burdett, Ricky (Ed.): South American Cities: Securing an Urban Future, Urban Age, LSE Cities Programme, 2008. Bromley, D.F./ Jones, Gareth: Identifying the Inner City in Latin America, in The Geographical Journal, Vol. 162, No.2.

Alfaro, Dionisio: Codigo Urbano, San José, 1998.

Eberle, Dietmar/ Glaser, Marie Antoinette: Wohnen – Im Wechselspiel zwischen öffentlich und privat, Zürich, 2009. Vogt, Günther: Über den Dächern, Wahlfach Workbook, Zürich 2011. Lim, S. W. William/ Beng, Tan Hock: Contemporary Vernacular: Evoking Traditions in Asian Architecture, Singapore, 1998. Powell, Robert: Line Edge & Shade, The Search for a Design

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Language in Tropical Asia, Singapore, 1997. INVU: Plan Regional Gran Area Metropolitan (GAM). 1986, 2006 Lauber, Wolfgang: Deutsche Architektur in Kamerun, 1884 – 1914, Stuttgart, 1988. Lauber, Wolfgang: Tropical Architecture, Stuttgart, 2005. Mateo, Josep Lluis: After Crisis: Contemporary Architectural Conditions. Basel, 2011.

Web Pages http://www.prugam.go.cr/ – PRUGAM Regional and Urban Planning Project http://www.imn.ac.cr – (instituto meteorologico nacional) climate and meteorological data

McQuaid, Matilda: Shigeru Ban. London, 2003. http://www.inec.go.cr – National Institute for Statistics Bay, Joo Hwa, Boon, Lay Ong (Eds.): Tropical Sustainable Architecture: Social and Environmental Dimensions, London, 2006.

Literature

Habraken, N. J.: The Structure of the Ordinary, Form and Control in the Built Environment. Cambridge, 1998 Maradia, Samarth: Facade: The Skin and the Face. MAS ETH Dissertation, Zürich, 2005

http://www.coarqcr.com – College of Architects http://www.cfia.or.cr – College of Architects and Engineers http://www.invu.go.cr – The Ministry for Housing and Urbanism

Alvarado, Guillermo Carvajal: The City of San José and the Organisation of Urban Space in the Central Valley of Costa Rica 80

http://www.arquitecturatropical.org – Instituto de Arquitectura Tropical / Institute of Tropical Architecture

Robbins, Edward: The Multiplicity of Latin American and Latino Urban Worlds in: ReVista, Cityscapes, Thinking on Cities, Latin America and Beyond. 2003

Journals Habitar – journal of the College of Architects, Costa Rica

Institutional Reports

http://www.codigosismico.or.cr – The Seismic Code for Buildings http://arquis.ucr.ac.cr/ – The School of Architecture at the University of Costa RIca http://www.uveritas.ac.cr/ – Veritas University – a private University for Design and Architecture http://www.tec.ac.cr/sitios/Docencia/arquitectura/Paginas/ default.aspx – the Costa Rican Institute of Technology – Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism

The Report of the Commission for the Urban Regeneration and Densification of San José, 2003. The World Bank: Vulnerability, Risk Reduction and Adaptation to Climate Change – Costa Rica. 2011 National Meteorological Institute: Climate, Variability and Climate Change in Costa Rica. San José, 2008. UN Habitat: Program Report for Costa Rica, 2008–9

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Evaluation (provisional)

ETH ZÜRICH DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE EVALUATION MASTER THESIS FS 2012 SELF-DETERMINED THEME, B EQUIVALENT – ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE “URBAN LIVING, SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA THE HEART OF THE CITY REVISITED”

Diploma Professor: Co-examiners: 1st Accompanying Subject: 2nd Accompanying Subject:

Prof. Andrea Deplazes Prof. Hubert Klumpner Construction Structural Design

Clarity of strategic concept and urban design

2. Urban and Architectural Operation

Coherence between concept and strategy

Successful development and refinement of the brief and program

Development and representation of programme, typology, prototypes, public–private spaces, networks, phasing

Architectural resolution, responding to the issues contained in the brief

3. First Accompanying Subject 4. Second Accompanying Subject 5. Presentation Quality and Clarity

Drawings, Images, Diagrams, Model, Text; Consistency of Concept, Text and Graphics

6. Overall Impression

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Evaluation

1. Concept and Strategy Interpretation and representation of the site Incorporation of the existing networks and uses Interpretation and embodiment of research and analysis in the concept


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Appendices

Appendices

In order to provide an insight into a number of themes, either as a record of topics which have been of particular interest, or which otherwise would be difficult to incorporate, I have included a number of texts as an appendix. The first, by Richard Sennett, on the severity of the challenge of sustainability is something that has remained with me since I read it at first, and is particularly poignant here – in the context of my geographic displacement from San José, and the seriousness with which the issue of construction and the culture of building should be taken. There follows two texts by the leading protagonists in the ongoing discussion in Costa Rica, Eduardo Brenes and Bruno Stagno. Brenes’ text is the summary of the aims of the eight-year-long planning study he and his colleagues (from universities and the various government ministries) made between 2000–8, the so-called PRUGAM. It serves to show the basic challenges this city faces, and to give a more direct picture of prevailing attitudes. Stagno’s piece, short, rather hyperbolic, yet from what I know, all too true. This is the measure of what is at stake here, and where this study is directed – at the loss of the idea of the city. It is almost a cliché now to gander at the “gated-communities” we see sprouting up all over the globe, lamenting it, or revelling in its logic. Of course, that this process is taking place is no coincidence, there are real factors at play, yet here, in Costa Rica, of all places – in one of the safest, most stable metropolitan regions in Latin America, there is an opportunity – in a way, there must be an opportunity for reversing this trend. Because such patterns are enduring, that is to say, these walled fiefdoms will outlast all of us. The vision of society that they entail, no one desires, their continuing creation is the product of lazy developmental logic – the true exploitation of the land, and of fear. Following this, an outline of the efforts in the informal sector of Costa Rica and elsewhere, by the former President, Oscar Arias; A rather typical but somehow compelling overview of the real estate situation in the country by an American website, which

is matter-of-fact enough to provide some idea of the country seen through the lens of North American investment, which of course, is actually a dominating force and cultural influence in the country as a whole. Finally, an insightful interview with the Colombian architect Simon Vérez, whose work with bamboo and other natural materials provides an interesting perspective for the case of Costa Rica, and the challenges of integrating this into the orthodox building culture. I hope these additions prove illuminating, in fleshing out the picture that this document seeks to illustrate.

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The Foreigner Richard Sennett

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Excerpt from the Prologue to The Craftsman

Appendices

The final book in the project returns to more certain terrain, the earth itself. In both natural resources and climate change, we are facing a physical crisis largely of our own human making. The myth of Pandora has now become a secular symbol of self-destruction. To deal with this physical crisis we are obliged to change both the things we make and how we use them. We will need to learn different ways of making buildings and transport and to contrive rituals that will accustom us to saving. We will need to become good craftsmen of the environment. The word sustainable is now used to convey this kind of craftsmanship, and it carries a particular baggage. Sustainable suggests living more at one with nature, as Martin Heidegger imagined in his old age, establishing an equilibrium between ourselves and the resources of the earth – an image of balance and reconciliation. In my view, this is an inadequate, insufficient view of environmental craft; to change both the productive procedures and rituals of use requires a more radical self-critique. A stronger jolt to changing how we have used resources would come in imagining ourselves to be like immigrants thrust by chance or fate onto a territory not our own, in a place we cannot command as our own. The stranger, remarks the sociologist Georg Simmel, learns the art of adaptation more searchingly, if more painfully, than people who feel more entitled to belong, at peace with their surrounding. In Simmel’s view, the foreigner also holds up a mirror to the society into which he or she enters, since the foreigner cannot take for granted ways of life that seem to natives just natural. So great are the changes required to alter humankind’s dealings with the physical world only this sense of self-displacement and estrangement can drive the actual practices of change and reducing our consuming desires; the dream of dwelling in equilibrium and peace with the world risks, in my view, leading us to seek and escape in an idealised Nature, rather than confronting the self-destructive territory we have actually made. At least this is my starting point in trying to understand the techniques of environmental craft of a different kind, and why I’ve entitled this third volume The Foreigner. That craft is now foreign to us.


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Cities as Walled-in Fiefdoms

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Appendices

Arq. Bruno Stagno

It is interesting to drive through the Central Valley suburbs and verify that the new trend in city planning boils down to a walledin model with restricted admission, premises on which residences are built. This model has had such a popular acceptance that it has been applied to lots and homes of all dimensions. In verifying the scope of application of this model, one cannot help thinking about the walledin fiefdoms of the Middle Ages, the Yeminite cities or the Moroccan kasbahs. This type of cities represented strongholds whose reality came as a result of subjection. On the other hand, the medieval boroughs were the outcome of the citizens’ wish for freedom from their dominant rulers. The creation of San José came as a wish for independence from the Old Metropolis. Contemporary walled-in fiefdoms are the result of the lack of security that leads inhabitants to seek refuge and pay protection individually, as the feudal lords charged their vassals protection to defend them against invaders. Going back to our modern-day walled-in fiefdoms, their origins and commercial success are based on an alleged security, which in any event should be guaranteed by the State, but is also expressed as an evident wish for social isolation. Although it is a fact that social segregation is practically unavoidable in a consumption-oriented society, due to the income brackets, its impact, at least, should not be accentuated because of spatial discrimination. This unprecedented situation has an effect on peace and social solidarity (two pillars of Costa Rican society). This is why it is fitting to ask ourselves what are the causes and consequences of this turn of events. If the causes can be the subject of substantial multidisciplinary studies, at least the consequences are evident in the day-to-day living conditions that are beginning to be perceived in behaviours that show scant knowledge of

civics and the use of the city and its public spaces, an increasing sense of not belonging, a generalized indifference towards this problem, a rampant and selfish individualism, and other expressions that sociologists have probably detected by now. The foregoing erodes urban culture, which constitutes a synthesis of the more revealing expressions of a people throughout history. As we discuss today the walled-in fiefdom of suburbs and its consequences, regrettably this process has yet to find its counterpart, since the historic centres are emptied, and as the most evident social impact, have ceased to act as the nation’s gathering space. With this dual experience, which undermines urban culture on the periphery and from the centre, it is easy to predict a weakening of identity. Until a few years ago, fortunately the urban centres still represented the community’s public space. It was there where the members of society, without distinction, used to meet. In the streets, parks, stores, institutions, and churches, everyone met and observed other people, as beings that shared the present and future of one same nation, pluralistic, tolerant, and cosmopolitan. This type of knowledge strengthened the ties of solidarity. Today, the city and the citizens change at great pace, influenced by multiple factors. In this context, it is necessary to learn to distinguish those changes that reinforce identity and make urban culture flourish, and in turn, foster the wisdom needed to reject those changes that impoverish it. When urban planning disregards citizenship solidarity and urban space loses its strength as social catalyst and genuine representation of a culture, it risks turning into a powerful instrument that promotes social and spatial segregation, and whose regrettable consequences and outcome are incubated through time until they are expressed violently.

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Summary of the Territorial Urban Development Model of the PRUGAM Plan: 2008–2030 Arq. Eduardo Brenes, Former Director of PRUGAM

The proposed model is multifunctional compact cities based on the following principles and their investments: • A basis for urban development with the characteristics of the territory balance the demand for developable urban land and depending on the natural resources (primarily water), and recreational landscape of the agricultural and forestry production. Therefore, urban development lower pressure to the mountain ranges of Central Valley and El Guarco. • An urban development based on the existence of compact cities multifunctional, medium and high population density, with heights variables appropriate to the services and infrastructure. • A network of aqueducts, sewerage systems and treatment systems wastewater for the entire GAM, thus strengthening the model of high population density and urban integration

To meet these objectives, the Plan 20082030 PRUGAM rescues proposed coordinates and let the creativity of citizens, the implementation of projects lead to the achievement of urban-territorial model. Among them: 1. The connectivity and additional works to existing ways achieve interregional road network, whose total investment is around $1800 million. 2. The modernization of mass transit (sectorization and project TREM), with a total investment of around $1750 million. 3. The sewerage network, with a first phase near $500 million. 4. The modernization of the aqueducts. 5. The storm sewer extensions. 6. The momentum of the industrial areas and the level of exports (Infrastructure and industries). 7. Housing construction of high density / high

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of the courses rivers and their waters. • A network of storm sewers to prevent flooding. • A system of collection and recycling of waste. • An integration of natural resources, both peripheral and central the urban environment, through the green fabric. • A GAM territory served by a good network of roads that offer the road connectivity, roads located tangentially related to the cities. • A system of intermodal mass transit, high technology and energy efficient, with support elements such as gas stations nodes exchange or integration, pedestrian networks, networks of cycle routes and a parking policy consistent with the urban model. • Increased social and spatial cohesion in our cities, contributing special way to public safety and community integration. • A competitive economic development worldwide, promoting high-tech industry and agriculture and forestry.

Appendices

Touring the Central Valley Greater Metropolitan Area, preferably in time of heavy rainfall, such is the challenge that looms in its restructuring and reconstruction, that it seems unattainable by its cultural, social, economic and legal complications. It is easier, arguably, settle with the status quo and continue to meet certain needs each year, and invest continually responding to disasters or emergencies. The proposed Plan PRUGAM 2008-2030, although implicitly the whole vision of improving the GAM, it poses a viable strategy to start structuring functional regional city, which will require an significant investment plan, runs steadily, year by year, through 2030 and beyond with resources from different sources, but on principles of coordination institutional and municipal levels. The Plan does not ignore other urgent PRUGAM needs of the country, but also recognizes the importance of GAM its population, resources, production and infrastructure in this territory.


or medium high in the central areas. 8. The recovery and redesign of public spaces (streets and avenues, roads, wholesale market, walkways,tree planting, urban and metropolitan parks, national stadium,convention centre, urban development axes, etc.) 9. The provision of new buildings in central areas of nature public and private (Civic Centre of the Four Powers, Presidential House and Legislative Assembly Customs; Square Ministries intermodal transit stations, etc.) To promote the model requires a legal and institutional framework that can in the short term and the legal framework, promote the model under a scheme intersectoral coordination binding to the institutional and resources. Continuously and in parallel, should continue debugging and extending the technical, institutional and legal until a new paradigm in urban land use and our country, in accordance with the environment and society.

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Appendices

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Oscar Arias Foreword to Slum Upgrading

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free of hatred.” This publication is intended to help Latin American leaders confront the growing need for housing and basic infrastructure in the cities of our region. Recognizing that traditional public housing policies are unlikely to meet the needs of the urban poor, the authors of this work have sought out successful examples of “participatory urban upgrading.” This approach to the provision of shelter calls for the improvement of the built environment within existing settlements, and it calls for the active involvement of members of the community in the enhancement of their neighborhoods. To be sure, implementing participatory urban upgrading on a scale large enough to transform all the slums of our region will be a major challenge, but the case studies included in this book provide a useful “road map” for policymakers interested in this promising approach. This book also shows, through some remarkable Latin American examples, that it is possible to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people through large-scale slum upgrading. This idea is one of the conceptual underpinnings of the “Cities Alliance for Cities Without Slums” action plan, launched by the United Nations and the World Bank in December 1999, under the patronage of President Nelson Mandela. This initiative is the most ambitious attempt to date to face up to the challenge of scaling up slum upgrading and fighting urban poverty worldwide. In his report to the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged all UN member states to endorse the Cities Without Slums initiative. The world leaders who gathered together in New York for the Millennium Assembly in September 2000 heeded his call and integrated the central aim of the Cities Without Slums action plan—to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020—into the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. It is a pleasure for me to add my own voice to President Mandela’s and Secretary-General Annan’s rallying cry to the international community for a world free of slums. I hope that this book will prove to be a useful tool in this crucially important endeavor.

Appendices

Decent shelter is a basic human need and a basic human right. But as Latin America’s urban population continues to grow at a rapid rate, providing safe, sanitary, affordable housing and basic infrastructure for all city-dwellers will become an increasingly serious challenge for the region’s policy-makers. Already, tens of millions of Latin Americans live precariously in informal settlements, often lacking access to basic social services. In the years ahead, the demand for housing will rise further as Latin America’s children reach adulthood and start families of their own. While today 60 percent of the region’s population is between 15 and 65 years of age, it is estimated that that figure will rise to 70 percent within the next 20 years. Unless the increasing demand for housing is met, the slums and shantytowns of our region will continue to expand, contributing to the rise of such social problems as crime, violence, poverty, unemployment, and disease. Moreover, unless Latin America’s slums are replaced by improved settlements, another generation of our children will grow up without the education that they will need to be productive contributors to the global economy, without faith in democratic institutions, and without hope for the future. As president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990, I made the provision of housing a top priority of my administration. At a time when our urban population was expanding rapidly, I pledged to oversee the construction of 20,000 housing units per year. In a small country like Costa Rica, which had just over 500,000 units of housing in the mid-1980s, such a program was truly ambitious. In the end, we were able to provide many more than the promised 40,000 housing units during the four years of my presidency. Indeed, on a per capita basis, we built more houses than any other country in Latin America. The energy that was invested in the provision of housing and basic infrastructure during those years gaverise to several innovative initiatives, including one that is described in this book. These efforts reflectezd a desire on the part of my government to meet the most pressing needs of the Costa Rican people, but these programs also reflected my conviction that the availability of decent shelter is an essential precondition for social stability and economic growth. As I said when I received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, “We are convinced that a land free of slums will be a land


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Costa Rica Real Estate Analysis

Costa Rica’s estate market slowly recovering Jun 07, 2011

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Appendices

www.globalpropertyguide.com Costa Rica has long been a popular tourist destination. Beautiful beaches and valleys, tropical greenery, wide biodiversity and a comfortable climate attract a growing number of tourists. There’s lots to do, including surfing, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, bird watching and rainforest exploring, and even just outdoor sightseeing. Costa Rica offers excellent security, good infrastructure, accessible healthcare and affordable real estate, all of which appeals to tourists, buyers and retirees. Aside from the country’s natural attractions, Costa Rica’s stable economy and uninterrupted democracy encourage real estate investors. Costa Rica was one of the countries whose real estate market plunged when the recession hit. But now Costa Rica’s housing market is reviving, though it is nowhere near what it was during the 2006 to 2007 boom. “There has been a timid awakening in selling homes and condos on Pacific beaches, while the GAM [greater San José metropolitan area] residential sector has been growing at a steady pace, with an excellent range of properties,” according to Aleyda Bonilla, president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Real Estate Brokers. Adds Playa Hermosa First Realty’s Les Nunez: “Middle- and lower-priced homes….are really starting to move now, as opposed to the top end. So, anything between US$300,000 and under, you’re getting good inquires and even purchases now.” Real estate transactions in Costa Rica are typically quoted in US dollars. The Costa Rican colon (CRC) increased in value during

2010, from US$1=557 colones to US$1=493 colones, so real estate has become cheaper from the Costa Rican point of view. San Jose, parts of Central Valley, the Central Pacific region and Guanacaste are picking up. Atenas in western Central Valley is becoming popular. “Gringo-style” homes are selling in Atenas, especially modestly priced ones which do not exceed US$200,000. The improvement in housing demand has boosted construction and the mortgage market. Private construction rose 0.7% y-o-y to February 2011 – the first private construction index rise in 25 months. Housing loan volumes also increased 6.38% y-o-y to February 2011. Costa Rica has some of the best housing stock in Latin America. Less than 10% is considered to be in bad condition. 74% the total housing stock is owner-occupied, and 17% is rented. For years Guanacaste was a wild woolly territory, hard to get to, the domain of backpackers and surfers who appreciated its climate and stunning beaches. Then Guanacaste took off. The real estate boom in Guanacaste began after the opening of the Daniel Oduber international airport in 2002 (which is located in Liberia) and the opening of the Four Seasons resort, part of the 2,300-acre (9.3 sq. km.) US$400 million Península Papagayo project developed by the Costa Rican developer Alan Kelso, indisputably the most luxurious development on the coast. The resort was tagged by Travel + Leisure as among the 500 Best Hotels, the top resort in Latin America. According to revealrealestate. com, beachfront and ocean view condominiums in Four Seasons resort are priced from US$1,400,000 to US$2,500,000. Houses sell from US$3,000,000 to US$7,400,000. Another catalyst was the start of direct

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– without any advertising. Nowadays, ocean view condominiums sell in Hacienda Pinilla at around US$725,000 to US$1,100,000, and houses range from US$840,000 to US$2,000,000. The US$35 million expansion of the Daniel Oduber Quiros airportis expected to finish in June 2011, allowing it to accommodate around 1,500 passengers, reaffirming Guanacaste as Costa Rica’s second most important airport. The area’s promoters have taken to calling it the new Gold Coast (see New York Times). Guanacaste is low in humidity and has just two seasons- the Green Season, May to November when there are morning or afternoon showers that clear to provide spectacular sunsets, and the High Season, with beautiful sunny days from November to May. The Central Valley has a temperate climate suitable for year-round living, and has easy access to San Jose, the country’s capital. San Jose is admittedly rather ugly, but it is the country’s economic and cultural centre. Its population dropped to 60,000 people from around 70,000 people, 20 years ago. To attract people back, San Jose’s local authorities now plan to a downtown revamp, building parks, improving water and drainage systems, and improving traffic management. A new project aims to create a “Chinatown” covering 8,300 sqm, and to develop Paseo Colón. Half-hour away from the capital are the mountains of Heredia to the north, Alajuela to the northwest and Cartago to the east, which offer small-town charm. The warm climate on the hills of Escazú, west of San José, is another favourite with North American expatriates. According to Brad Butler of Heredia’s Emerald Forest Properties, Heredia attracts a lot of retired people. “They are attracted by the climate, activities, that it is close to hospitals, close to airport, close to beaches, and has a

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flights from Atlanta, Miami and Houston in 2005. Planes fly into the small airport at Liberia, the capital of Guanacaste. Some of the most luxurious and highpriced properties are available here, though there is a wide range of condominiums in Guanacaste on a price range from $100,000 to $750,000, depending on location. “The most attractive properties are close to the beaches with a very good sea view,” according to Edwin Sanchez, regional director of Century 21. Aside from the Four Seasons resort, there are three more hotels, including a Barcelo hotel. More than 1,000 luxury homes are expected to rise in Peninsula Papagayo. A private 18hole Jack Nicklaus designed golf course is also scheduled to open in 2014, one of the three golf course attractions planned in Peninsula Papagayo along with the currently existing 18-hole Arnold Palmer signature golf course. Also under development is the US$15 million La Marina Papagayo. La Marina Papagayo’s Phase I was opened on January 13, 2009, and includes 180 boat slips accommodating private boats ranging from sport fishing boats to mega yachts. The marina is expected to have 370 slips upon its completion. Tamarindo, the biggest coastal town in Guanacaste, is a hit among tourists, especially surfers. It has the most developed tourist infrastructure in Guanacaste. Due to its popularity, Tamarindo property prices have risen, and average homes and condominiums sell at prices ranging from $200,000 to $700,000 Located at the southern part of Tamarindo is the Hacienda Pinilla, where hundreds of condominiums and villas are being built around 4,500 acres of nature preserve by the Atlanta-based owner, Hoover Gordon Pattillo, who bought the land as a family vacation homestead 30 years ago. Over two weeks in 2008, Hacienda Pinilla sold 43 Spanish colonial condominiums for US$580,000 and up


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central location”. Heredia saw 25% price growth annually from 2004 to 2008. The market boom began almost immediately after 2002 shock collapse of a Ponzi scheme called Ofinter SA run by businessman Luis Enrique Villalobos, which owned US$1 billion to 6,300 investors, mainly North American. Three months later another Ponzi scheme called Savings Unlimited went down, trapping another 2,800 investors. Central Valley has the highest number of developments underway, especially in places such as San José, Alajuela and Heredia, according to The Association of Engineers and Architects. In fact the pre-crisis construction boom has made houses more affordable. Buyers can have a decent house for as low as US$50,000 up to US$250,000 in Tico neighborhoods. Low-end condominiums sell at a minimum amount of US$150,000 in Ezcazú and Santa Ana. Numerous projects are under construction or being planned in San Jose’s east. One of the most recent is the $100+ million Curridabat “Business Centre of the East”. Office buildings under construction include the Terra Corporate Campus, and the $10 million Oficentro Condal San Pedro. Costa Rica’s last frontier is the Osa peninsula area, which is very rural, not easily accessible, with a small airport and terrible roads. But it is also much more tropical, an area known for its heat and mosquitoes and snakes. The Caribbean beaches, especially those near the Panamanian border, are some of the most beautiful and unspoiled in the country and they are seeing enormous price increases. Rental occupancy rates at Jaco beach were boosted when the new San Jose to Caldera highway became accessible. The highway was completed in early 2010, reducing the travel time from San Jose (and the Central Valley area) to around 1 hour, according to reveal-

realestate.com. “Jaco Beach was really a hippie town, but eight months ago some developers came in, and wow that is booming,” says Butler. “Things are just crazy on the beaches. Hermoso has done very very well in the past two years, it was seen the largest [price] increases in the country. ” Inflation was 4.7% y-o-y to April 2011, having declined from 5.6% the same month last year. Interest rates have followed inflation down. The base rate was reduced in March to 7.25% , from 8% this January, by the Banco Central de Costa Rica (BCCR). In 2010 base rates ranged from 6.75% to 8.50%. Housing mortgage credits rose by 6.38% yo-y to Q1 2011. “Housing loans have improved because the banks are more dynamic, offering lower rates and customers are more willing to buy,” says Alejandra Baeza, Commercial and Sales Manager of New Era Building Group. Gross rental yields on residential property in Costa Rica are moderately good, ranging from 5.38% to 8.32% (Global Property Guide survey of November 2010). From 2000 to 2005, average annual rent growth was 6.58%. Costa Rica’s rental market is covered by Law 7527 (General Law on Urban and Suburban Renting), passed in 1995. According to the law, rents quoted in colon cannot be increased by more than 15% unless inflation is beyond 15% - which it never was since the law passed - while rents quoted in US dollars or any other currency cannot be increased at all. What is most unusual about this law is that, in practice, it favours quoting rents in US dollars, since the colon generally depreciates, making foreign-currency denominated rents rise faster than rents quoted in colons. Rental property owners may welcome a new “solidarity tax” which aims to change the tax rules for homeowners and tenants. Under current rules, taxes are paid by anyone who

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The main reason behind the revaluation is: low interest rates for foreign currencies (2% per year) as compared to high profits in colones (8%) and, constant intervention by the Central Bank in the forex market Due to these factors, the colon has risen against the US Dollar, but some analysts believe that the revaluation is just temporary and expect the currency to close at ¢520 per US Dollar by the end of 2011.

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receives a rental income. From that income, the taxpayer is allowed to subtract deductible expenses (e.g. depreciation). The average income tax rate is 30%. Smaller and medium companies pay income taxes ranging from 10% to 20%, and individuals who receive rental income pay 10% to 25% tax. Tenants don’t pay taxes. The “solidarity tax” makes these changes: Taxpayers can choose between two taxing options: a) pay 15% tax on rental income (income from rent only), with the taxpayer entitled to 15% deductible expenses without documentation; b) Pay taxes the traditional way, with all deductible expenses subtracted and corresponding rates applied. Costa Rica’s economy is improving, but slowly. Costa Rica’s GDP rose 3.54% during the year to February 2011 (BCCR Monthly Economic Activity Index). The modest growth of the national economy has enabled lower interest rates, and thus a recovery in private sector credit. At the heart of the economy’s relatively weak growth are stagnant manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Exports account for 60% of GDP, and last year there were losses across 300 companies (mostly in the agricultural and industrial sectors), strongly impacting the economy. Sectors related to domestic demand have performed better than exporters. According to Monica Araya, the president of the Chamber of Exporters, the 23% revaluation of colon is killing exporters’ business, making industry unsustainable. Costa Rica’s production costs are up to 40% higher than the rest of Central America, adds Araya. No further devaluation in the colon is expected; instead a rise is more likely to occur. The dollar is expected to remain near the bottom of the band for the rest of 2011, but should close at between ¢530 and ¢555 by the end of the year, according to Grupo Aldera.


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Interview: Simón Vélez

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Gregory Wessner, The Architectural League New York

Simón Vélez is a singular architect who has gained international exposure through an unwavering commitment to the use of bamboo in architecture. On one of his first jobs many decades ago, Velez discovered a process that enabled him to use bamboo as a structural material in ways beyond what had ever been achieved before then. Across a wide range of typologies–from housing to horse stables to chapels to a store for Carrefour–Velez is on a mission to make bamboo fashionable, if only for its critical importance as part of a sustainable future. Notable projects include a pavilion for the ZERI Foundation (Zero Energy Research and Initiatives) at Expo 2000, Hanover; the Crosswaters Ecolodge in the Guangdong Province, China; and the Zócalo Nomadic Museum, Mexico City. In December 2009 he received the Netherlands’ Prince Claus Award for contributions to culture and development.

tle man, because my family has cattle and big farms from my mother’s side. But I grew up going with my father to his office, and going with him to his construction sites. I used to play with the sons of the workers of my father. So I was always in an architectural environment. When I went to study architecture, my father went into bankruptcy, so he couldn’t send me outside of Colombia. He sent me to Bogotá to a private university. I consider it the worst education you can get.

Velez sat down for an interview with the League’s Gregory Wessner on the morning after his Current Work lecture to talk about his work and influences and, of course, bamboo.

What were you taught in architecture school? What were your influences as a student? I think it’s because I didn’t get a good education there that I became more alternative. I was not interested in urban architecture in concrete and steel. I love concrete, I love steel– I’m not against that. But I started to look at natural materials, even though in those times ecology was not that important; we were not concerned about that. But it was the hippie era. I think I have never been a hippie but I am a kind of a hippie. I love playing golf and I don’t smoke marijuana, but…my attitude is a hippie attitude. [laughs] Because of that hippie culture, I think we started to look to natural materials. But not from the point of view of the environment, just from the point of view of communication with nature. I was really influenced by a book, a California hippie book, about architecture called Shelter. A big book. It’s like an encyclopedia of how people everywhere in the world build with alterna-

Let’s start by talking about your education as an architect…. Well, my father was an architect. There were no architectural studies in those times in Colombia, so he first studied engineering at the National University. Then he came to Washington D.C. to study at the Catholic University. He was one of the very first architects to work in Colombia who trained as an architect, but he always lived in a small village, which is where I am from. He never moved and I grew up there in a modern house, in the Bauhaus style. There were many German professors at his university in the wartime and some of them were coming from the Bauhaus–although not the famous ones. I grew up in my father’s environment. My only brother is a cat-

Why do you say that? Because private universities in Colombia are a business. They are not concerned with giving education. What they pay to a professor doesn’t pay what they have to pay to park the car; one hour of teaching is less than what they have to pay for the car. I am exaggerating a little, but very little.

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tive materials and with any kind of materials. That book really impressed me when I was a student. I said to myself, I want to go into that direction.

What attracts you to bamboo in terms of the aesthetics of it? Well, it is a very charismatic material from the point of view of aesthetics. It’s a kind of high-tech from nature. You just take a machete and cut the bamboo pole and you can carry it on your shoulders. You don’t need any heavy machinery. It is already prepared for building. The only thing you need to do is to treat it against bugs….I use bamboo in the primitive way. The future of bamboo, like the future of timber, is lamination….For bamboo, that is a

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So when you started working with bamboo, you were in a way rediscovering a material that was traditional to the country or the village, rediscovering a building tradition of your family? Well, I started working with wood mainly. But we don’t have a forestry culture. From our Spanish culture, we don’t like to work with wood. The Spanish were kind of Romans–they build with stone, and they use wood for the roof. But since we don’t have that tradition, it’s hard to get good pieces of wood. Then a friend of mine forced me to work with bamboo. He told me, I need a structure for the horses and it has to be built out of bamboo. I had never worked with bamboo, because I grew up with that stigma that bamboo was a poor material. I love bamboo in the landscape; it’s so beautiful. But wherever you see a building in bamboo, it means poverty. But I was forced to work with bamboo. I was standing with my workers trying to imagine how to do a bamboo structure. Suddenly I discovered that if I pour cement mortar in the hollow bamboo, it works. Really worked. Such an idiot idea, but it gave me the opportunity to do big bamboo structures. My limit is the strength of the steel, not the strength of the bamboo.

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So I have to ask the inevitable questions about bamboo. I grew up in a bamboo forest. Where I am from, bamboo is everywhere. It is like a weed. In my grandfather’s times that was the building material. Everything was built out of bamboo. But covered with a kind of…not cement but a kind of…plaster. We come from the Spanish tradition of building houses with rammed earth, adobe. But our ancestors, when they moved to that area, there was so much bamboo. And they were very poor. This was like 150 years ago that my family founded the village where I was born. They started to build in the old tradition of the Spanish architecture with rammed earth and with adobe. But there was a very strong earthquake in the beginning of the city and everything built in rammed earth disappeared. But the poorest person that built his house there–he was so poor that he built his house out of bamboo. And that was the only one that didn’t collapse in the earthquake. So because of that they started to build out of bamboo and wood. They built in the urbanism of Spanish cities, one house next to the other. But adobe houses don’t catch fire. So when the electricity came, in the beginning of the last century, there was a big fire that destroyed the whole city, because they had used bamboo and built the houses so closely together. After that, they stopped building out of bamboo, because of the fire. So we started to import concrete from here and from Europe. It was kind of a wealthy community because of coffee, and because of gold. They started building everything out of concrete and after that only the very poor people kept working with bamboo. Bamboo, it’s very good for earthquakes, but very bad for the fires. So

you have to choose which tragedy you prefer. [laughs]


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big alternative.

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Do you continue to experiment with bamboo, to push its material properties? I am always doing trial and error. I’m a kind of scientist. It’s the only scientific method that exists, trial and error. And by experience. That why it’s so important to have engineers doing academic work and teaching about these kinds of alternative materials. I cannot keep being like a crazy hippie doing big structures that can kill people. [laughs] You need to involve another point of view. I never had the training that an engineer had. In some ways I have to think as an engineer but I don’t know anything about numbers. It’s just my experience. Do you involve engineers in your projects? Yes, I try to, especially now that I am starting to have big commissions. I don’t want to be responsible for killing people. I always say it’s better to have the engineer in jail, than to have the architect. [laughs] That is the reason for engineering. You have a responsibility; you can kill hundreds of people just by mistake. It’s better to have a more scientific approach to these materials. It’s like the beginning of concrete, of cast iron. With the very first building they involved engineers to study the materials as engineers, not as architects. When you work with an engineer, is there a lot of collaboration? Do ideas go back and forth between you and the engineer? No. I develop the technique of building. They just have to test the strength of the joinery. But engineers are very conservative, so they only want to focus on concrete and steel. In our culture, they don’t like wood and they don’t like bamboo. Do you ever get tired of working with bamboo? Sometimes. Yes. Too much….[laughs]

You suggested last night that the stigma attached to bamboo might lessen if the rich started using it more, that it wouldn’t have such strong associations with poverty. Is that actually happening? It has happened. The only opportunity I had to do social housing was next to a luxury club golf course, where I did a project. In the club, I did bamboo houses; to have a bamboo house means that you are rich because it is much more expensive than the ones [in the club] that don’t have bamboo. And so the poor neighborhood built nearby knew of bamboo from the point of view of the rich, so they wanted to have a bamboo house. But even those houses are not completely out of bamboo; they have a lot of cement. I am always saying, in architecture we have to be the same as in cooking, you cannot be completely vegetarian or completely carnivorous. Actually this leads to my next question: I watched an interview in which you described this idea of architecture as either carnivorous or vegetarian. Let’s keep talking about that. What do you mean and what do you think the right mix is between the two? You need an equilibrium between minerals, like cement and steel, and vegetals, like bamboo or wood. Carnivorous vs. vegetarian. In that equilibrium you have protection against earthquakes. For me the ideal mixture is to have the structure with…mainly vegetable materials, like bamboo or wood. But the skin of the buildings to be out of mortar or concrete. The structural responsibility should be taken by the fiber of the natural materials; they are quite flexible. But the protection against fire has to be done by cement or by brick. I prefer cement because you can do the plaster by hand. You don’t need heavy machinery, you don’t need any heavy equipment. I don’t like buildings when they impose that huge machinery. Not because I am an envi-

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ronmentalist freak. It’s because we are a poor country and we need to occupy labor. As an architect, I make sure that every structure I do is expensive in using hand labor from the very poor people. When we use prefab structures in Colombia, they don’t cost less than the ones that employ a lot of people. Why use prefab with heavy machinery, if our labor is cheap?

You work out all of your projects completely in hand drawings. You mentioned last night that you had to start hiring young architects to do computer drawings, because the law requires computer drawings, but you yourself still do everything by hand. This is my notebook. Yesterday I was designing a house for a very rich young guy. These are my very first drawings, and here I am already understanding what to do. It’s going to

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You use the printed grid of the paper as a scale for measurement? Always, I cannot design without the grid. Then what will you do with these drawings? You’ll give this to one of your young architects and they’ll translate it a computer drawing? They produce drawings for me, but I don’t need them. Now that you have to do computer drawings, does it change your design process at all? Are you influenced by computer technology? No. In my grid [on the paper] is all the information I need. Are you against the use of technology? No, no. In some way, this is technology [pointing to a curved steel pipe]. I need a machine to do that curve. But that machine has existed for two hundred years or more. If you see the waterworks of New York, they have huge pipes making very strange curves. Those machines existed before computers. You give geometric information to the machine so that they can make the radius that you want. What architects have influenced your work? I have been very interested in Greene & Greene, the famous architects that made so many works in California. I have many books

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So the more labor you’re using, the more opportunity you’re giving to workers? And the better the quality of the building.

So you carry this book around and sketch wherever you are? Then I do more precise drawings. My most important tool is the eraser, not the pencil. With these drawings, I don’t need anymore. I can start building. The measurements are already here.

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How important are the construction workers to realizing your buildings? In poor countries the labor is very skillful, because the people have to live by their hands. When a country becomes rich, labor loses their skills and they start to use only machinery. I can make the houses that I build without electricity, just by hand, with a chisel and a hammer and a saw. From the point of view of the country where I am from, the intense use of labor is very important, from a social point of view. You are spending money on workers, not on technology. Like if you are using aluminum, you have to go to a huge company and buy the aluminum. I don’t like that, because then I don’t use the crafts of the people. I’m not a communist, but I like to make sure that any building is intense in labor use. And in poor countries they have so much skill.

be a house with steel pipes and bamboo. I always design symmetry, like a kid. You give a pencil to a kid to design a house, it’s always symmetrical.


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about their work, their furniture. It’s very inspiring for me to see their work. My biggest influence comes from Andrea Palladio. And all old architecture, it doesn’t matter anywhere in the world it happens, for me it’s beautiful. If you travel, everywhere in the world the old architecture–doesn’t matter if it’s for the poor or for the wealthy–it’s so beautiful. For some reason with modern architecture–maybe it’s the concrete techniques of building and the steel techniques–but for some reason I don’t feel any human beings in those buildings. They are out of scale. I am not a philosopher, but I think that since concrete has no limits– you can make a twenty-meter span with just a simple beam–as an architect you don’t need to think how to make a span like that. When a material has limits, like stone or wood or whatever, those limits give you a proportion because you cannot make a huge span if you don’t do a precise design. The limits of the material give you the proportion. With concrete you don’t have any limits. And with steel. In the absence of limits you lose the proportion. You lose the scale. You were quoted as saying that you’re not well thought of as an architect in Colombia. Why? Because the academics think that good architecture is other things. Brick and concrete. I don’t do that. I am not against that, but I don’t do that. If you go to Bogotá you will see a very good quality of modern architecture made out of brick. I can do that kind of building, but I am not interested. My colleagues don’t like me, but I don’t care what they say. Another question about Colombia: In New York, in the U.S., there have been a number of articles about Medellin and Bogotá, about how architecture has been used to successfully counteract the widespread violence and decline of public life in these cities. From your perspective as a Colombian, what do you think about this work?

I am not interested in that architecture. It’s globalization and exactly the same building in any magazine of architecture. Doesn’t matter where in the world it happened. It’s like we are trying to prove to the world that we are part of civilization, that we can do exactly the same building that you do here. So for me, that doesn’t hold any interest. They have good qualities; they have the skills and they design in the international standards. But I don’t feel any interest in looking at that. And they don’t have any interest in looking at what I do. Speaking of international architecture, what do you think about what’s going on in the world today in terms of architecture. Do you feel positive about the direction that design is going in? I was at Cooper Union in that new building. I think that building is the end of an era. It is so baroque, it is so over-designed. It’s an important lesson of architecture because it doesn’t matter what kind of style you have, every style in history it comes into the baroque at some point, and that is the end of it. The Cooper building is over-expressionistic. It’s over-designed. It’s too many things. If you look at the steel, you see too much steel. If you look at the concrete, it’s too much concrete. It’s doing a lot of fake work. It’s not doing structural work. It is very beautiful. But the beauty just for the beauty makes no sense. You have to be more equilibrated than that. That building for me is the end of an era. It’s too much form without any sense. We have to go back again to the classic things. This interview was conducted on February 25, 2011.

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Städtisches Wohnen, San José  

Outline proposal for Masters project in architecture at ETH Zurich.

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