As an answer to the context of economic and social exclusion on one hand, and the effects of climate change on the other hand in the Paraguayan neighborhood of “Chacarita”, the project “Ñemuha Chacarita” proposes pragmatic architectural actions regarding public spaces. As a sub-tropical country, Paraguay, which deals with temperatures between 30 and 50 °C most of the time, has suffered the last few years, unpredictable heats, rains and storms. Thus, considering the floods and the lack of drinking water in the country, which affects half of the neighborhood, the project chose to deal with these situations including them in a greater vision.
These interventions point at the introduction of a local economy allowing a self-management of daily needs, as well as the development of mobility for an opening towards the “formal” city and the Paraguay river, located behind. It is about trying to offer tools for a volunteer and more participative appropriation of the space for less pollution.
By proposing a technical solution to face these major challenges, it’s the opportunity to help the inhabitants to face their complicated situation by providing ameliorations of their everyday life, from today to the decades ahead. Moreover, by simple propositions, the aspiration of this project is to engage every moment of the day: to work, to move around the neighborhood, to recreate, to rest, to learn, etc.
Paraguay is an “island surrounded by land” as Augusto Roa Bastos well described it. It was crushed for a long time because of external interests, particularly by its giant neighbors, which are Argentina and Brazil. The country went through the longest dictatorship in Latin America during the 35 years of General Stroessner’s government. Since the collapse of the dictator’s regime in 1989, the Paraguayan territory and particularly its capital city, Asunción, opened up suddenly to the world. Its globalized economy went hand in hand with a fast population and urban growth.
If Paraguay is today trying to face the world challenges, it still suffering from major economic and social unbalances on one hand, and the effects of climate change on the other hand. Indeed, the ancient garden-city experienced an unbalanced development as many other southamerican agglomerations, leaving on a side numerous marginalized urban areas. Furthermore, as one of the single country of Latin America, with Bolivia, to not have an access to the ocean, Paraguay has developed a special relation to the rivers which cross it: by using its strength installing two big dams and by suffering from countless and periodic floods.
Positioned in the convex part of a river bend from Paraguay River, Asunción is a good example to illustrate this situation. By observing a diffuse expansion, the city became one of capital cities of the world with less density. Despite of this situation, Asunción continue its horizontal development with constructions built ever more closed of the river and its whims. Today, the capital is configured by an important part of settlements located in flood fringes.
This duality offers a considerable potential for its inhabitants. Thus, the project “Chacarita Ñemuha” chooses to position itself in the Chacarita in order to reveal this contrast and offer its potential seeking to the welfare of its population. Indeed, by proposing a technical solution to face the effect of climate changes, it’s the opportunity to help the inhabitants to face their complicated situation by providing ameliorations of their everyday life, from today to the decades ahead. Thus, it deals with supplying drinking water system to the half of the neighborhood answering to urban and social issues as an adaptive design solution.
With this in mind, the project uses density as a tool to think about city spaces. Indeed, density is an urban characteristic which has several benefits to offer for the improvement of daily life quality, such as the strengthening of social solidarity. In spite of the negative characteristics that come along with it, density offers opportunities to strengthen community spaces. In order to achieve this, it is important to upgrade the quality of public spaces in which activities are held and users are more likely to experience social interexchange. Moreover, by upgrading public spaces, density is a way to achieve electric and drinking water qualitative grids for a lower price.
A PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE
Nowadays the inhabitants of Chacarita are depending on the economy of the formal city through an economy of “informal” subsistence. The incorporation of activities, which generates employments in the area, is essential for families to overcome their condition of poverty. Furthermore, generating income in the neighborhood contributes directly to the sustainability of interventions such as the payment of public services.
In order to answer the previously mentioned issues, the project materializes it in the construction of a basic structure made by modules and in its access. Open towards the neighborhood from one side and towards the park on the other, it allows a great flexibility in the diversity of the program: a market, artisan or crafts production activities, such as carpentries, ironworks and mechanic works, as well as solar protected public spaces. It presents also the advantage of a modularity of the space over the time. Each module has a dimension of 3 meters per 7 meters and takes advantage of closing gates and storage spaces in the thickness of the roof. Thanks its transparency in the ground floor, it provides superb landscape views of the far shoreline.
The structure takes position on the latest topographic curve and signals the urban development boundary before the flood area. Furthermore, it shows an important sign between urban areas activities, habitat areas and preserved green areas, which mixes agricultural activities in community gardens with recreation areas and sport fields.
Throughout the thickness of the rooftop, drinking water grids are spread for the 54% of inhabitant of the neighborhood, which nowadays lack of access to drinking water supply systems, as well as electric and gas grids.
In order to make the most of the whole building and opening the neighborhood towards the other neighborhoods, the upper floor of the structure is used as an open area for pedestrians and bike riders. In parallel, community bike garages are available between the structure’s modules and its extremities, connected with craftsmen studio of bikes recycling. This area can be used for a river sightseeing public space which connects urban strategic points of the city: Caballero Square and Independencia Square, historical heart of Asunción.
GUIDE THE CITY TOWARD THE RIVER
With its opening towards the city and the development of mobility, plus the access to the neighborhood, the project displays picturesque roads with squares and community spaces. Projected amongst streams, they connect the upper city to the dock area through the Chacarita. If nowadays the ravines are to throw wastes which come down in the Chacarita when the heavy rainfall increase the level of the streams, the interventions will give value to these spaces, inviting inhabitants to take better care and maintenance of the place. Moreover, the majority of inhabitants doesn’t have vehicles nor access to public transportations because of the urban morphology, the topography and the poor state of roads. Thanks to escalators located along the pathways, the users can reach easily and faster the upper city.
At the entry of the neighborhood, all citizens from Asunción, which desire to go to the market and curious tourists wanting to discover Paraguayan artisan traditions, will be able to come in through these paths. For a capital, which wishes to open itself more towards the river - which named its country - these paths will also be used as pedestrian connections between the upper city and the bay. The users will find in its extremities a garage parking lot building and the railroad station, such as the dock area for navigation, as an option for recreation.
Asunción has experienced in its history a multiplication of neighborhood market buildings as a particular trading culture. Nevertheless, in the last few decades, an important amount of shopping centers have appeared in the higher social level neighborhoods, becoming the new public spaces of social interactions. We have observed an opposite phenomenon in the popular slums where traditional markets with precarious structures have remained and where different basic need products are offered. The concept of this project is also to provide a traditional solution adapted to the contemporary needs of the market with technologies that can be found in a modern shopping center such as a mechanical escalator, with the exception of having it in a space with an open sky.
To conclude, the proposed interventions offer different tools for an autonomous development, providing drinking water and managing the density and its expansion in flooding areas. They develop an economy for the neighborhood taking advantage of its own touristic areas to stimulate human exchanges between nearby neighborhoods. The structure in modules generates a dynamic interface with the city, available because of the commercial spots and circulations. In this emblematic landscape of the capital city, downtown’s plinth is taken in consideration being an historical part of Asunción, properly appreciating and strengthening the neighborhood’s identity.