Post by Silvia Soonets [Proyectos Arqui 5] on Caracas

This week the CAF announced the results of the second international competition of Urban Development and Social Inclusion. I’m proud and happy to say, Venezuela got two of the four prizes.

CAF, Development Bank for Latin America, promotes a model of sustainable development through credit operations, grants and technical support, and offers financial structuring to public and private sector projects in Latin America.

The competition awards projects that aim to improve the quality of life of Latin-American citizens, in a framework of sustainability and community participation. Although the rules do not specifically command the projects should be dealing with informality or poverty most of them do.

Unlike most architectural competitions that value the projects for their technical aspects or their beauty, here the social project is equally important and not only the designers but also the social promoters and community representatives are considered authors.  The jurors, consistently, appreciate the architectural value only as one among many others, and they even seem to put the variety of actors or the social methodology slightly above.

This attitude is certainly a step in the right direction, and I wish more competitions like this would made us designers to think twice before propose visually impacting projects that not always solve the actual problems. While I miss bigger images than the ones in the official publication, I have to accept maybe that is also right, and make us to focus on the essential.  And I thank Ignacio Cardona who gave me pictures to illustrate this post.

The first prize went to Ecobarrio, en Haina, Dominican Republic, and is a program to improve the social and physical conditions of an informal settlement.  The second to Yo soy Pisco, in Peru, that is a big program to improve the living conditions for the shore communities.  Although I love the Pisco website, so clear and informative and with many wonderful images, the Ecobarrio pages are touching and somehow closer to people.

The two honorable mentions went to the Integral Transformation of Barrio La Silsa and the Community Sports Park Mesuca, both inside informal settlements in Caracas. Only a Venezuelan can notice the different tone -different languages? –  of the proposals. The first  is a the improvement of sector managed bythe National Government, the second, the smaller of the four,  a sport facility proposed by the Municipality. So different in their words and so equal in their goals and methods, it would be that the gap separating us is not as deep as we think?

It only left to be wished the projects will be built, as the main prize is the opportunity of getting the CAF’s support for the further development.  And no matter how good the projects, how aligned with the needs of the communities, the only lasting impact has to do with actual built improvements.

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