Post by Marines Pocaterra

This week I traveled through  several shelter developments with 2 common denominators: density & low income.  Some seem to succeed,while others have failed. In this post, we’ll try to underline their qualities and failures, to determine their social-urban future,identify what to replicate and what to potentially reject in the future.

What is the secret ingredient that renders a new community successful: Is it the urban product or rather the methodology used?

 CARACAS Venezuela

‘Almost without  noticing,  big block Buildings from Mision Vivienda (Shelter National Project) grew within the city, adding a vertical dimension to the existing slum conditions where violence imposes humiliation as the survival fee.” El Universal domingo 11,2014
In one of the towers in El Valle, a new dweller, according to neighbors, is an evicted convict. Nobody will inform of his continuous attacks to the community, because he has threatened to kill them if denounced. The neighborhood becomes a prison: dwellers ignore attacks in a hallway, don’t dress well, the less attention, the less problems. Another refugee moves in escorted by Johnny. The law of Survival is the only law around.
You’ll have to ask Johnny, he’s in charge of the tower, someone left an apartment because she had a problem. Don’t say I told you.
As they loose their citizen rights,residents become tolerant to illegal controls, very similar to Prison Gangs .

The Towers on Puente Los Leones, El Paraíso, are known  as “Rodeo I and Rodeo II”,  the name of a violent penitentiary East of Caracas. The authors of homicide cases are frequently found in these blocks using the  victims phone and car.

Caso la Candelaria

A middle class neighborhood, with small pubs and commercial sectors was seriously affected when a new Commercial Mall was invaded. Trying to adapt such a building to living conditions Dwellers, over 852 families, have perforated outer walls; waste is dumped on sidewalks as in the Middle Ages.
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The inaction of the State brought new and more audacious invasions, principally the occupation of  huge corporative towers: Viasa 2006 and Confinanzas 2007. Four  illegal invasions  surround the  Ministry of Public Affairs and Justice. Insecurity has grown fast.

San Jose, Costa Rica

Fuprovi  is an Institution dedicated to Social Production of Shelter and Habitat for population of middle –low income.

Constituted in Costa Rica on 1987, hFuprovi as worked with communities in a self-construction scheme. With an owner-driven approach, they train both men and women to build their own house, in administrative matters or direct labor. They achieve a multilevel capacity building of the community, focusing on the social level to prepare future neighbors to live in community, and also on the physical level to maintain and improve their habitat.


Women working on the site after regular jobs FUPROVIs Web Page


Women working on the site  after regular jobs FUPROVIs Web Page


Remember  the movie Slumdog Millionare? It was filmed in Dahravi, this slum’s conditions are difficult to grasp for outsiders and authorities have been trying to initiate  renewal policies for almost 40 years without much success. It has around 1 million resident, workers, it is a production hub where wealthy business owners choose to stay.

Alternative to mass shelter. “Soportes: Una Alternativa al Alojamiento de Masas” Is a book  arguments for reintroduction of human dignity in shelter theme. Scheltema & Holkema1962, by NJ Habraken.  Huge modernist housing projects marked the 60’s.  Disrupting many cities through Europe, they became violent quarters and a decade later had to be subject to intervention and social upgrades or even demolition.

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The book claims human shelter has to be the result of individual human  responsability and activity directed towards support of the  neighborhood. Shelter is a matter of cultivating an artificial surrounding not a technocratic organization.

The fact that the conflict between man and method employed to solve the shelter shortage could mean there is a conexion between them. If so it might mean we must accept participation and consultation of the final user.

Bringing newcomers to live together in dense patterns of shelter units, is not a trivial matter. And we will dedicate next post to the Politics associated to Urban Renewal Schemes.

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