A Bottom-up Downtown Bogota

A Bottom-up Downtown Bogota

 

Bottom Up Urbanism, and Crowd Funding to Design the City of the Future.

 

Latin American cities have been and are experiencing a huge boom in the growing middle class, creating a new balance in society mostly affecting its cities. Currently, more than 75% of Latin America’s 590 million inhabitants live in cities, a record for the developing world. This trend is global: in 1950, just 730 million people lived in cities; by 2009, the figure had risen to over 3 billion. Bogota’s urbanization rate of 5.5% per year is one of the highest urbanization rates of any Latin American nation due mostly in part to massive rural-urban migration. In 1985, 70% of Bogota’s population lived in the city compared to 30% in 1930. With the increase in the size of the middle class, a demand for a new Downtown Bogota was sought after. Archi-Tectonics was asked to provide a bottom - up design for Downtown Bogota and to create a team to realize that design.

 

It is well known that traditional urban planning strategies in fast growing Latin American cities collapse under ever changing Mayors [they run 3 years only], political corruption and inconsistency. Although Bogota had some amazing mayors, such as Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa who, with unorthodox methods, in less than 10 years turned one of the world's most dangerous, violent and corrupt capitals into a peaceful model city populated by caring citizens. Traditional top down urban planning is no longer a valid proposal, instead a bottom up scenario based model needs to be utilized.  

 

The idea of Bottom Up design is not new in the realm of academics, where system based thinking is quite common, but is not often found in urban design. Clearly, top-down urban planning is not going to work in Bogota, as historically that strategy has failed. So instead, we first asked ourselves: How can we harness bottom-up innovation? How can we create structure and intent around what the people themselves want to do? Together with important innovators such as Gary Hack, an urban planner responsible for Manhattan’s WTC area and West Side development, PSFK, an English trend research group and crowd sourcing expert, and Rodrigo and the Sponsor BD Promotores we collaborated to develop a platform where the people of Bogota can help create their city by interacting in proposals made for their Downtown using web and radio based crowd sourcing to impact our design through real time interaction and direct feedback.       

 

The second question we asked ourselves is; what does the word “Downtown” actually mean?  We realized that “downtown is a term primarily used in North America to refer to a city’s core (or center) or central business district, and it has characteristics specific to the area such as public facilities, institutions, but also population and traffic problems. By analyzing Downtown Bogota we quickly realized that it missed most of those crucial characteristics, such as population distribution [hardly any people live downtown] and public facilities [providing amenities one needs to live comfortably].

 

Of critical importance is that local optimization meets a global purpose, which makes for an urban environment, which can excel in both. We developed SIX bottom-up urban scenarios, which will initiate the emergence of new spin-off effects and economic growth, thus rebuilding the city from the inside out. 

 

THE FIRST SCENARIO is a bottom up approach to help GROW the population. Only a meager 259,580 people reside in the heart of the city of Bogota and 1.7 MILLION people commute to the downtown area daily, leaving the downtown desolate every night. Around 1 MILLION of those commuters are students who travel to one of the 33 schools located in the city. If these 1 million students simply lived Downtown, that would not only drastically resolve congestion and pollution, but reduce travel time as well,  solving not one but three problems at the same time.  

 

THE SECOND BOTTOM-UP SCENARIO is the revitalization of one of the many rivers that run through the city, the Rio Fucha. The construction of Bogota reduced the wetlands of Bogota to only 3% of their original territory. The Rio Fucha floods regularly as the canalization of all rivers has prevented the surrounding land from absorbing excess rainfall. The canalized rivers are extremely polluted and create a stench that is especially pungent during the hot summers there. By taking the Rio Fucha out of its concrete bed, and re-naturalizing it, the water will be naturally filtered and cleaned, the soil will rehydrate and floods can be absorbed by the surrounding reconstituted wetlands and parkscapes. The creation of community gardens, and establishment of urban agriculture in conjunction with farmers’ markets will provide locals with work, incomes, and a fair food distribution . The now restored natural riverbed also becomes an attractor for recreation, sports and new mid-rise housing.

 

HOW TO GET THIS DONE?

The much needed vertical densification is impossible to finance in emerging markets.  Bank interest rates and currency risk have discouraged the building of skyscrapers in Bogota for the past 35 years, despite the overwhelming demand for housing. My Ideal City is a non-political project that seeks to propose a model of the city of the future; a city made by and for the citizens, in which the ideas are agreed upon by the crowd, examined and discussed with experts and eventually to be realized in the city. That's how you achieve consensus. And with crowdfunding, the projects can be a reality, soon.

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