First elements of the project were completed in 2006/07 but most of the important sub-projects were suspended. Work recommenced in early 2009 – where patience, creativity and community support have paid off.
A step in the right direction
During 2006 and early 2007, the first series of stairs (as documented in the project photographs) were completed, however most of the important sub-projects were stopped. The project was presented to a number of government authorities, but did not attract further funding, nor was public-private cooperation considered a workable option. Although the new municipal government had requested details about the San Rafael-Unido project to be included in their urban planning, financial support had not been confirmed. The project authors also considered project-managing further elements of the project – however without government approval; this approach was not tenable due to legal barriers and legal risk issues.
In early 2009, funds were made available and work on the project recommenced – the residents’ hopes and patience had been rewarded. The building process has re-started, albeit at a slow rate of progress. The project authors stress the need for patience and creativity with such projects, and ongoing community support.
Replicating the concept
The project authors have continued to work on simpler projects in other “barrios”, and consider that it is both possible and critical to improve the conditions within informal settlements. Future initiatives are less broad in scope, are more concrete in terms of project elements, and commence construction at the earliest phase possible.See more
The work is merited with high distinction for its sensitive and skillful treatment of a challenging range of environmental, cultural, and communal dilemmas. By deploying competitively priced, sustainable technology and material processing, the project offers a model of global importance for improving the living conditions of human settlements while also serving to advance local resourcefulness.
The project is also merited for encouraging proactive participation by users in planning as well as implementing improvements to their surroundings. Such an integrated approach offers beneficial contributions to the formation of collectively viable habitats and values. Also worthy of merit are the innovative measures explored for integrating building services and infrastructural elements within a more ambitious initiative to cultivate a constructive symbiosis between natural and fabricated contexts.
Great care is given to combine restoration with rebuilding, thereby drawing attention to untapped possibilities of existing conditions as well as to cost-effective measures for augmenting their performative capacities. Promising immediate and long-term enrichment of the region, the work promotes awareness of the subtle interdependencies of landscape, civic fabric, and architecture.
Of particular interest is the attention given to providing a variety of functional responses to the needs of the local population such as the school, nursery, and health service facilities. Their strategic positioning at the base of the hill along the existing road is not only a logical precautionary measure against landslides, but also promises to reinvigorate social exchange and enhance public pride of place. Equally significant, the venture endorses an ethically responsive approach to alleviating socioeconomic hardship, proving that attention to indigenous traditions and respect for the limitation of means available does not necessarily compromise aesthetic quality or spatial variety.See more
A project to upgrade and integrate urban infrastructure in the shantytown of San Rafael-Unido in Caracas, Venezuela was awarded the global Holcim Awards Gold 2006. The winning team from Proyectos Arqui 5 CA, Caracas included Silvia Soonets, Isabel Cecilia Pocaterra, Maria Ines Pocaterra and Victor Gastier.
CKIR Helsinki School of Economics Senior Visiting Fellow, and member of the jury, Kaarin Taipale (Finland), said the project sensitively and skillfully treats a challenging array of environmental, cultural and communal issues: “The urban integration project not only advances local pride and resourcefulness; it is an ethically responsive and environmentally sensitive approach to minimizing extreme socioeconomic hardship,” she said. The project explores innovative ways of integrating building services and infrastructure as part of a broader aim to fittingly unify natural and constructed environments.Read more »
Following five regional competitions, 15 Award-winning projects including San Rafael-Unido, Urban Integration Project in Caracas, Venezuela, will now compete in the first global Holcim Awards competition for sustainable construction projects. The global phase of the competition showcases the best entries from more than 1500 submissions from 118 countries, and encourages innovative, future-oriented and tangible approaches within the building and construction industry.Holcim Awards competition goes global »
Third prize of USD 25,000 was awarded to an urban improvement project for a large shanty town in Caracas, addressing both geographical and social conditions. The project team led by Silvia Soonets of Caracas was commended for its sensitive consideration for the diverse qualities of indoor and outdoor communal life
The project takes maximum advantage of the steep slope to create a variety of social spaces with the placement of housing units providing a counter-measure to the danger of landslides. Prof Vanderley John, Associate Professor, Department of Construction Engineering, Polytechnic School at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) and head of the jury said “The project puts forward an innovative scheme with positive impact for the local community.”Read more »
Addressing both a challenging geographic and social condition, the project puts forward an innovative scheme with positive impact for the local community. The project is skillfully situated, taking maximum advantage of the steep slope to create a variety of social spaces.
Additionally, the placement of the residential units is conceived as counter measure to the danger of landslides. Also commendable is the sensitive consideration for the diverse qualities of indoor and outdoor communal life. Taking a cue from existing features of such communities, the intervention of the numerous stair elements and pedestrian paths is a positive contribution in that it eliminates the need for mass relocation of families.
Water drainage is incorporated in this circulation system, displaying a skillful economy of means. Encouraging participation of the community in design considerations, the scheme is respectful of local values and indigenous traditions, while managing to deliver a presence that promises a contemporary sense of collective identity.
The work offers important lessons in how sustainable, low cost technology can improve the social and economic livelihood of settlements. Furthermore, the project advances an environmentally and culturally sensitive solution to current regional dilemmas.See more
Achieving improvements in an impoverished context is a challenge. With the next project an entirely different social and cultural situation is being addressed – that of desolate urban conditions in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Venezuela.
A group of female architects led the efforts to introduce the necessary infrastructure for water, sewage, and electricity along the paths and steep stairs winding through the settlement. Furthermore, the design proposes a series of interventions at the lower edge of the neighborhood.
These structures are intended to fill the wasteland and form a bridge between the existing fabric and the neighboring context – with small shops along a street as well as various public buildings for education and health services. Great care is exercised with the design of the outdoor spaces for the community as is evidenced, for example, in the articulation of the stairs as the locus for social interaction. These stairs are also given added value in that they integrate all necessary technical infrastructure.Download project entry poster (PDF, 13.78 MB) »See more
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