Focusing on “people-centered performance” is important for increasing sustainability of the built environment. One of the five “target issues” created by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction is “PEOPLE”. The “target issues” are used in the Holcim Awards competition to evaluate and compare all entries. The human factor of sustainability is supported by projects that reflect a sensitive understanding of their unique social and political contexts, and generate the potential for long-lasting positive impacts on the local community.
Within the many facets of ethical standards and social inclusion that form the people “target issue”, the process of community consultation is crucial in many projects. By enabling the active participation of stakeholders in the design and implementation phases of a project – including users, clients, neighborhood affiliations, local authorities and non-governmental organizations – there is a significant opportunity for strengthening shared values and empowering communities.
Community consultation enhances the capacity of the design team to identify and more sufficiently understand locally significant factors, and encourages design solutions that address the distinctive elements of each specific context. The community-centered approach avoids designing from a “clean slate”, but uses its understanding of the well-established community social system to design and implement interventions that are intertwined with improving lives.
Going with the flow
An urban water transport system for Bangkok, Thailand by DI Designs proposes to revive the ancient canals of the city to create a modern network of waterways that will supplement the existing Metropolitan Rapid Transit system. After winning a Holcim Acknowledgement prize in 2014, the project authors are engaged in community consultation with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to ensure the waterways are part of a sustainable urban master plan for the city.
DI Designs were part of a team set the task of studying and finding ways to improve the housing of the many informal communities that live along Ladprao and Bang Sue canals. The process included many meetings and workshops with community leaders, government organizations, universities and private sector companies who were interested to be a part of the urban development along the canal. The objective of DI Designs is to work in detail with the related organizations so that their Resurrected Canals concept is included in the nation’s Thailand 4.0 smart city plan.
Read project overview: Resurrected Canals: Urban water transport system, Bangkok, Thailand
Information driven design
The Dryline (BIG U) addresses New York City’s vulnerability to coastal flooding with a protective ribbon in Southern Manhattan. The 12 km-long infrastructural barrier incorporates public space with the high-water barrier doubling as parks, seating, bicycle shelters or skateboard ramps. Through the greater understanding developed by consulting with the communities in lower Manhattan, the project not only looked at the water situation, but was also able to ask: What else do the local communities need? Can the design combine water management measures with solutions to other problems and deficiencies identified by the community?”
In partnership with LESReady! (a coalition of more than 25 community groups coordinating planning efforts for the Lower East Side neighborhood in Manhattan), a series of public outreach work sessions with community end-users were conducted. Residents were invited to build their own resilient waterfront through drawings and interactive models with an array of options for creating a collective vision for their waterfront.
The Dryline was created from the specific knowledge of external specialists, as well as the local community. The founder of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) emphasized how the design work of his office is driven by information. “Our role was to take these inputs and synthesize a design solution that is informed by this wealth of knowledge,” explains Bjarke Ingels, winner of the Global Awards Bronze for 2015.
Read project overview: The Dryline: Urban flood protection infrastructure, New York, USA
What is the right question?
The Sustainable Post-tsunami Reconstruction Master Plan from Elemental led by Alejandro Aravena was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people in southern Chile. The masterplan responds with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk.
By bringing the community into the process to understand the problems – the design process ensures that the “right questions” are the focus. Through community consultation, the design team broadened the scope of the project to address issues of seasonal flooding and public space: using a forest band between the city and the sea that would dissipate the force of future tsunami waves, but would also address the more immediate concerns of the community. Five years after implementation began, most elements of the project have been implemented to improve the quality of the city. The approach was able to negotiate private benefit with common good.See more
Alejandro Aravena, Partner Architect at Elemental, provides an overview of the firm’s sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan for the city of Constitución, Chile. Now five years after implementation began, most elements of the project have been implemented to improve the quality of the city. The approach was able to negotiate private benefit with common good.
Instead of implementing a construction ban or massive barrier along the risk zones, this project in Chile developed creative ways to improve resilience in the city of Constitución, using a process of extensive community participation. The planning phase of the project lasted only 100 days. “That’s an eternity if you’re living in a place that’s been devastated, but it’s very little time to redesign an entire city,” says Alejandro Aravena.
The interventions included planting forests along the flood-prone foreshore to dissipate the energy of tsunami waves, urban planning to limit use of ground floor spaces in the risk zone, and an evacuation plan as the third protection element. In addition to responding to the threat of tsunami, the approach enabled long-term preservation of the city at its historical position, created public spaces along the banks of the river that alleviate the lack of inner-city recreation areas, and also support the dissipation of rainwater runoff to avoid further flooding.
The riverside forest park – the first line of defense against tsunamis – is currently under construction. Other projects including the new Cultural Center of Constitución and the scenic seaside promenade and tourism path have already been completed. Further interventions to enhance public infrastructure will include a heated swimming pool, harbor theater and civic hall.
Construction of 484 dwellings in the Villa Verde housing complex has been completed. Work began in March 2012 with USD 13 million in funding from the Chilean Ministry for Housing & Planning. Elemental proposed combining the funds available for temporary emergency shelters and social housing to provide better-quality shelters that could later on be dismantled and building materials be reused in an incremental social-housing scheme. Completion of the social housing project has enabled displaced residents to return to the area and already some houses have been extended as planned. The neighborhood contains three social centers, one multi-purpose court and green areas.See more
The “Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan” for Constitución has received further recognition in the Zumtobel Group Award category for Urban Developments and Initiatives.
The video presentation of the project (see link below) features Alejandro Aravena, Elemental; Iván Chamorro, Arauco Forestry; and Eugenio Tironi, Tironi Asociados. “Participatory design is not trying to ask people to validate the right answer – but starts by understanding what is the right question,” says Alejandro Aravena.
Supplemented by empirical evidence from the most recent tsunami, the architects relied on mathematical models and laboratory trials. Implementing their master plan proved very challenging both politically and socially, because it required the city to expropriate private land along the riverbank. Elemental’s successful approach was to rely on participatory design to define the citizens’ needs and engage them in the planning process. Today, four years after the earthquake, the individual projects from the master plan are being implemented.
“In Constitución, the population has managed to apply the necessary innovation to ensure its protection against future flooding. By adopting a bottom-up approach, in a very constructive way a joint decision has been reached regarding what the city should look like in the future. This exemplary concept is not restricted to Constitución, but could also apply in many geographies around the world that have been destroyed by natural disasters,” noted the jury, led by Winy Maas.
The Austrian lighting group, Zumtobel, had invited submissions for the award in three categories: Applied Innovations, Buildings, and Urban Developments & Initiatives. The jury had initially selected 15 projects as nominees from among the 356 submissions for the fourth Zumtobel Group Award, which was again curated by Aedes Architecture Forum in Berlin.See more
The reconstruction of Constitución continues with work on public infrastructure including the city’s new Cultural Center which is in the final stages of fit-out, and the Zócalo turístico de Constitución foreshore promenade set for completion in early 2015. In addition to the Cultural Center and tourist path, Constitución will also be enhanced by further elements of the project including a heated public swimming pool, river park, harbor theater and civic hall.
The art of revitalization
The city’s new USD 2.1 million Cultural Center facing the Plaza de Armas (adjacent to calle Cruz) is entering the final stage of construction with interior fit-out well under way. The site was recently inspected by the region’s government including Mayor of Constitución, Hugo Veloso. “The Cultural Center is a major urban intervention with a very modern design that also values the role of wood as a building material. The timber industry is a significant part of the region’s economy, and therefore, a fitting element of this great reconstruction project. We are delighted that the Cultural Center will play a part in the reinvigoration of the community,” Mayor Hugo Veloso explains.
Tourism in the frame
The USD 267,000 Zócalo turístico de Constitución foreshore promenade is also under construction, and scheduled for completion in January 2015. The tourist attraction and community facility will provide paths, bicycle facilities, shelters and vantage points starting from the mouth of the Maule River and extending along the Pacific coastline.
The project aims to elevate the value of the forest and natural heritage of the area, and provide landmarks for the best vantage points of the coast along the route. This integrated project will be further enhanced by the regional government’s commitment to build bicycle lanes integrated with road improvement programs.
Additional projects in planning within the PRES Constitución (Plan de Reconstrucción Sustentable) include a heated public swimming pool, river park, harbor theater and civic hall – which will be built adjacent to the already completed Mutrún football stadium. The implementation team includes architects from Elemental, engineering firm ARUP, the University of Talca and Fundación Chile. The project is based on active citizen participation where priority community projects were defined through dialog and binding consultation.See more
Construction of 484 dwellings in the housing complexes Villa Verde I-V began in March 2012 with USD 13 million in funding from the Chilean Ministry for Housing & Planning. The houses are now complete and include a kitchen, lounge, bathroom, laundry (ground floor) and two bedrooms (upper floor), are two-storey and are designed to be extendable. The neighborhood contains three social centers, one multi-purpose court and green areas.
Villa Verde is the largest project in the reconstruction of the city of Constitución. The completion of the project has enabled displaced residents to return to the area, following accommodation in temporary dwellings or living with extended family.
The government expropriated the worst-hit areas of the city - Orrego Island at the mouth of the Maule River and Maule’s riverside - to build a buffer-zone park to avoid destruction in case of a new tsunami. Some USD 95 million was allocated for housing, out of a total reconstruction budget of USD 150 million for the city. The remainder was allocated to the park and streets near the river that will serve as evacuation routes.
Half a good house is better than one small one
Elemental proposed combining the funds available for temporary emergency shelters and social housing to provide better-quality shelters with a higher initial cost that could then be dismantled and reused in an incremental social-housing scheme. The architects designed the social housing units as half of a good house instead of a complete, but small one: building-in the possibility for residents to double the floor area of the house to 80 square meters. Next to each built section of the row house is an open space of the same size into which residents can expand their house. Higher quality social housing eventually increases in value and provides families with capital growth where the collateral can be used to guarantee a loan for a small business, or pay for higher education for children.
Innovation in the built environment in this project did not come from new materials, new techniques or new systems: it came from having the courage to follow common sense ideas, to understand the needs of the people of Constitución, and by viewing the problem in terms of both the micro- and macro-environments.See more
ELEMENTAL SA led by prominent Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena was presented with a Global Holcim Awards Finalist 2012 certificate for the Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, of Constitución. Their master plan for the reconstruction of the Chilean port of Constitución after it was destroyed by a tsunami produces not only a new, but also an enhanced urban space.
The Global Holcim Awards Finalist 2012 certificate was presented to the winners by Fernando Palma, Sales Director at Polpaico, the Holcim Group company in Chile. The handover breakfast event included a debate on sustainability issues in Chile, and was attended by more than 30 architects including representatives of the Global Holcim Awards finalist team from ELEMENTAL.
The project had already been selected to receive the Holcim Awards Silver 2011 for Latin America and automatically qualified for the global phase of the USD 2 million competition. Alejandro Aravena praised the Holcim Awards competition for supporting projects that are at an advanced stage of design rather than completed projects. “People engaged in sustainability know that bringing together ideas, knowledge and coordination is the most critical factor to ensure such projects come to life – and this is precisely what the Holcim Awards competition supports,” he said.
The master plan was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people located on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and 300km southwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago. 8.8 Earthquake Chile - Sustainable reconstruction master plan proposes a public-private strategy to respond with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk.
Instead of considering a construction ban or a massive barrier along the risk zones, the project proposes to plant the flood-prone areas in order to break the waves. Located behind this first line of defense are facilities that have specific restrictions on the use and layout of ground floor areas. These two interventions are accompanied by an evacuation plan as the third protection element. The aim is a long-term preservation of the city at its historical position next to the estuary mouth – a strategic location for the city’s economy. The complimentary concept is to create public open spaces along the banks of the river that alleviate the lack of inner-city recreation areas as well as support the dissipation of rainwater runoff in order to avoid further flooding.
Alejandro Aravena thinks that the Holcim Award for ELEMENTAL’s strategy will facilitate project implementation. “Any confirmation that our project is a good thing helps us at the political level. Word then gets about: Hey, these guys are right!” But ultimately, the most important factor for architects is not necessarily the perception of outsiders, but the architect’s own appraisal. “The ultimate test for our proposals is always the question: ‘Would I want to live here if our plans are put into effect?’ In the case of Constitución I can answer this question without reservation in the affirmative. You are not often asked to develop an entire city, which is why I am happy that we have found such good solutions for Constitución,” he said.See more
The projects that received Holcim Awards Gold, Silver, or Bronze in each of the five regions of the world were automatically qualified to compete for the Global Holcim Awards 2012. The more extensive submission on the Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan for the global phase of the competition can be found here:
The Holcim Awards Silver was presented to a strategic response to the earthquake and tsunami risk in the coastal city of Constitución, Chile. Instead of considering a construction ban or a massive barrier along the risk zones, the project led by Alejandro Aravena of ELEMENTAL S.A. recommends planting forests along the flood-prone areas to dissipate the energy of waves through friction and implementing specific restrictions on the use and layout of ground floor spaces in the risk zone. The project advocates a long-term strategy to upgrade the built environment rather than implementing an ad hoc action plan to reconstruct the part of the city that was destroyed by the tsunami and earthquake. The approach was also applauded by the jury for integrating citizen participation to enhance the contextual and social sensitivity of the master plan.Media release – Sustainable construction as a key to better urban life »
The jury values the thoughtful approach of proposing a long-term strategy of upgrading the built environment rather than implementing an ad hoc action plan to reconstruct that which had been destroyed by the tsunami and earthquake. Furthermore, the project’s effective establishment in the social community through citizen participation was recognized, demonstrating the contextual and social sensitivity of the master plan.
This master plan was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people located on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and 300km southwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago.8.8 Earthquake Chile - Sustainable reconstruction master plan proposes a strategy to respond with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk.
Instead of considering a construction ban or a massive barrier along the risk zones, the project proposes to plant the flood-prone areas in order to break the waves. Located behind this first line of defense are facilities that have specific restrictions on the use and layout of ground floor areas. These two interventions are accompanied by an evacuation plan as the third protection element. The aim is a long-term preservation of the city at its historical position next to the estuary mouth – a strategic location for the city’s economy. The complimentary concept is to create public open spaces along the banks of the river that alleviate the lack of inner-city recreation areas as well as support the dissipation of rainwater runoff in order to avoid further flooding.Download project entry poster (PDF, 568.83 KB) »See more
Alejandro Aravena presented three of his projects from Chile that illustrate the power of design at a TED event in Rio …
The Holcim Awards Silver 2011 winning project from Latin America by Alejandro Aravena of Elemental has recently received …
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