On the one hand, the unregulated, organic, need-driven growth of the barrios has produced sustainable and efficient community models. Yet the resulting 'city' is chaotic, unstable, and unsafe. Urban planners have found European and American models to be irrelevant. What's the solution?

December 12, 2002

Caracas, in common with so many other Latin American metropoles, has witnessed the emergence of many "closed urban communities" during the past decade. Such privatized spaces are usually found in elite residential zones where residents can afford to pay for high walls, and guarded (and often armed) entrances. They represent a perceived safer alternative to the more open fabric of the "normal", formal cityscape --one in which individual houses are protected by high walls and electrified fences. These elite "barrios" thus eliminate the presence of buhoneros (street-traders) and other allegedly "dangerous" elements of the urban scene. Alas, they also represent in physical form the segregation that is ever more present in major cities, reflecting the results of social polarization: the rich with lavish homes and armoured cars well-protected, the poor in ranchos and on the streets. The future looks bleak, leading progressively to an even more divided Caracas.

David Robinson,
Geography Dep't Syracuse University

January 13, 2003

It seems short sighted to consider a solution. The study has laid before us a good summary, as general as it is, of the situation in caracas. What I believe the next step should be is to ask questions: how can a government on the brink of collapse and with only corrupt, oligarchic precedence be influenced into addressing issues that a global economy will put before it? how can the same government civilize a population where more that 80% lack schooling? where several million live as undocumented immigrants whose rights are refused or abused? The list of questions is long but needs to be put forward.

Architecture can not provide the answers. It can make the suggestions to other professionals and work in tandem with them to make changes. Caracas and Venezuela are a mess too great to place on the shoulder of architecture alone.

Pedro Pachano

January 17, 2003

I've been fascinated by the same occurrence. Barrios seem to lack anything we architecturally consider to be "adequate" urbanism, but then again when architecturally designed urbanism tends to create "dead cities". Maybe our concept of adequacy is in need of refinement. Is the world still something which can be defined according to our previous concepts of right and wrong or is it moving towards a more complex system of "better thans" or "better than befores"...or maybe even more important "more sustainable than befores". What is the impact of these situations on the environment and how is that creating or accentuating problems of "adequacy" in terms of health and sustenance?

Jason Buchheit,
Polshek Partnership Architects.