The urban environment of Caracas is a highly unstable and non-equilibrated system that continues to develop along feedback loops with unpredictable outcomes. As various urban committees have discovered, the local urban realities of Caracas stubbornly resist foreign planning theories. Efforts to apply European and American models have repeatedly failed. A possible strategy for success is to implement discreet elements of a flexible plan into the urban system, and then to base further phases on the results of these incremental applications.

The urban environment of Caracas is a highly unstable and non-equilibrated system that continues to develop along feedback loops with unpredictable outcomes. As various urban committees have discovered, the local urban realities of Caracas stubbornly resist foreign planning theories. Efforts to apply European and American models have repeatedly failed. A possible strategy for success is to implement discreet elements of a flexible plan into the urban system, and then to base further phases on the results of these incremental applications.

Caracas is a highly fragmented city. The different municipalities reinforce their differences and emphasize their political boundaries in a manner that recalls Allied-occupied Berlin: different police uniforms and gigantic letters on the pavement indicate passage from one district to the next. Borders inside the city are borders between what is allowed and what is forbidden. Constantly crossed but rarely questioned, these borders both define and are defined by the districts they divide. This fragmentation frustrates further attempts to construct a policy that addresses the city as a whole.

Our idea is to create a new borough district for the River Guaire, comprising the largely neglected river itself as well as its tributary creeks. The new district would introduce a totally new urban order by pulling the five riverside municipalities together around a new axial city spine.

Combined with man-made alterations to the landscape, the seismic activities, mudslides, and torrential rainfall of Caracas have visited devastation on its inhabitants. Most recently in December 1999, mudslides in the Vargas region completely erased a 30km stretch of Caracas' coastline, and claimed anywhere between 50,000 and 200,000 victims. The negative effects of inner city industries such as newspaper printing plants, breweries, and the chemical and steelworks industries are still part of the cityscape. The combination of natural and man-made disasters, and their impact on the city, is still largely underestimated. It is of critical importance that Caracas become a city that plans for and anticipates these catastrophes.

A slogan sprayed on city walls: "In the end the city is a problem of time."

THE RIVER IN 2002

SEISMIC ACTIVITIES, mudslides and torrential rainfall have resulted in devastation.