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Posts Tagged ‘Informal settlement’

BY KATARINA KATSMA, ASLA

Traction believes landscape architecture is for the people, not just the elite.

FROM THE MAY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In 2016, as a student at the University of Washington, Coco Alarcón won the ASLA Student Residential Design Award of Excellence for his project to improve public health by creating food gardens in a soggy, stressed neighborhood in Iquitos, Peru. He was also named a National Olmsted Scholar finalist that same year. Since then, Alarcón, who is Peruvian, has been working with a multidisciplinary collective he co-founded called Traction (formerly the Informal Urban Communities Initiative) to try to bring his ideas to fruition. Using research, community outreach, activism, and educational workshops, Traction works with people from communities where resources are scarce to create new social and physical infrastructure that promotes health, safety, and beauty for residents. LAM recently caught up with Alarcón to find out how his group’s work has progressed toward giving people, as he hopes, the motivation they need to transform their environments into equitable, healthy places.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What are you working on now?
One of our projects is to design and construct a landscape architecture intervention in a slum community and measure the impacts on human, ecological, and environmental health. For example, we are documenting changes in human microbiome, water quality, mental health, and biodiversity of birds and amphibians—among other measurements—in the community to understand the effects of a productive community garden.

Another project focuses on the collection of literature, local experiences, and interviews with experts from different disciplines to understand the role that landscape architecture has on the pandemic of vector-borne diseases related to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, including Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A 360-degree photo of Santa Marta. Photo by José Duarte.

Renowned for their ad hoc flexibility, material economy, and compositional resourcefulness, Rio de Janeiro’s favelas can be treasure troves for urbanists. Unplanned, unsanctioned, and often unmapped, they mutate (adding a story, turning a ground floor into a shop, switching from sheet metal to concrete as soon as owners come into a few more Brazilian reals) at a pace unseen in the affluent global north. But these communities are located far away from most of the world’s stock of urban design expertise.

Last spring, to bridge this divide, Penn State landscape architecture professor Timothy Baird and architecture professor José Duarte taught a new studio that engaged students in the study of one Brazilian favela via virtual reality (VR) technology. The studio, which paired architecture students with landscape architecture students, posited VR as a proxy for expensive site visits. “Developing countries can’t always afford consultants because of the distance and difficulty to travel,” says Baird, who recently became chair of the landscape architecture department at Cornell University.

The virtual reality environment in which these students designed was constructed after Duarte and a crew of Brazilian students traveled to Rio de Janeiro’s Santa Marta favela before the semester began. They took thousands of still images, 360-degree videos and photos, and collected (more…)

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