Cartography of Caracas’s Barrios
Post by Silvia Soonets
I’m very happy to be able to report good news from Caracas. Last week it was released a wonderful new book: CABA, Cartography of Caracas Barrios, 1966-2014. The book is remarkable for many reasons, not the least to have been published in such hard times.
For start, it is really beautiful, in a big tabloid format, with gorgeous design, amazing graphics, wonderful maps and plenty of pictures. It is also unique being the result of a private initiative: an idea of a private developer, Maximo Sacchini, working along with an architecture firm, Enlace Arquitectura.
The main idea is to map the growing of Caracas’ spontaneous settlements along the last 50 years. To do so, they use the official maps of 1966, 1984 and 2000, and recent aerial pictures. The resulting maps show how the barrios have grown, merged, densified and even disappeared. An example in this short video
The maps are clear and informative, and they are also accompanied by other relevant data: the extension of each one, the number and area covered by the buildings, its population, its growing rate and its density.
The information is organized following the guidelines of the National ‘Inventory of Barrios, proposed in the ’90 by Josefina Baldo and Federico Villanueva. They organized the spontaneous areas in two types: the large, extensive zones, or UPF (Physical Planning Units), and the smaller UDU (Urban Design Units). There is UDU’s forming part of UPF, but they could also be isolated, embedded in the formal city. The book includes information for all the UPFs, and the isolated UDUs.
Each UPF has its pages, with the map, the figures, and one aerial photograph and, additionally, the origin of the settlement’s name and a resume of its history. There is also an isometric drawing showing the topography and borders. The rigorous way in which the data is displayed is one of the most important contributions of the book, as it is possible to compare both among different zones and along the time.
And that comparison is what we found at the end of the book, with tables showing all the data, and evaluations regarding the whole city. There we learn that area occupied by the informal settlements was 17.53% of the city in 1966, and 24.54% in 2014. And as 45.9% of the population lives there, one conclusion is that the informal areas as more than twice denser that the formal ones.
The authors say they decided not to include a chapter with conclusions and let the readers use the data in their own ways, and certainly there are tons of data to study and plenty information to extract. I can’t wait to start.
The aerial photos, needed to complete the recent additions, have value for their own. Some are included in the book, but the ones that were shown at the release of the book leave me wanting for more..
And would the maps, data and pictures not suffice, the introduction of the book contains excellent essays about maps and informality. Most of the essays were written by a team of professors at Simon Bolivar University. It is suggestive that as “maps” they include the obvious drawings and also the ways to read them, ways to understand the informality, and also how it has been shown and fancied in pictures, photos, and movies.
The last essay, “Seen and unseen” is a reflexion on the ways of representing the informal areas in the city maps and how the “visibility” on the map precedes the actions and the upgrading. Let’s hope that the new visibility that brings the book will then lead to serious plans for our barrios.