Zone 19 - revitalization of public space in La Florida, Guatemala City

University essay from Blekinge Tekniska Högskola/Inst. för fysisk planering

Abstract: This diploma work concerns revitalization of public space in zone 19, La Florida, in Guatemala City. The main objective of the study was to develop planning and design proposals as well as implementation strategies that aim at gaining more public open space and revitalizing existing public open space, in a way that will define and emphasize La Florida?s identity. Although the development of the project - the diploma work - was a process of going back and forth between different phases of analysis and proposal development, as to describe the succession of the project, there are three main parts or phases. The first phase was the field study, which was conducted in Guatemala City from May trough July in 2000. The field study included studies on Guatemala City and La Florida based on interviews, literature reviews, site visits, site inventories and regular contact and meetings with professional planners, architects and representatives from different municipal departments as well as locals in La Florida. The intention was to get to know Guatemala City and La Florida and define the task, which was to develop a ?Plan Integral? - a plan for improvement of zone 19, La Florida. On the base of the studies, especially the numerous site visits in La Florida, I chose to focus on development and improvement of public space. The following phase included definition of a theoretical base on planning and design of public space through reviews on literature related to the topic. This theoretical base together with the studies on Guatemala City and La Florida, was used as a base from which the proposals was developed. The third and final phase was the actual development of the ideas and proposals. Although many ideas and proposals were initiated during the previous phases, especially during the first, they were not fully developed and illustrated until this phase. The second phase together with the third phase was mainly conducted in Sweden during 2000 and 2001. Both the country Guatemala and its capital, Guatemala City, present many contrasts and characteristics. The polarization between wealthy groups and impoverished people is wide. The rapid growth of the capital, which mainly is caused by migration to the city, together with the suburbanization during the last decades has brought problems like insufficient and poor infrastructure, disordered traffic and insufficient public transportation systems, housing shortage, spread of informal settlements and environmental problems. Added to these, is also its problematic geographical location in a region with constantly recurring natural disasters, as the history can proof. In order to fight these problems, the capital municipality initiated a development process by establishing a department for urban planning - Metrópolis 2,010- in 1994. In 1995 the Development Plan, by Metrópolis 2,010, was approved as the official document for future development strategies concerning development within the capital. The overall vision for the capital is to strive for a polycentric urban structure. La Florida, or zone 19, is one of the numerous low-income areas in the periphery of Guatemala City. The physical condition of buildings and public spaces in La Florida are poor, as maintenance and investment have been very moderate ever since its establishment in the 1950s. La Florida is nevertheless a diverse area with a mixture of lively commerce, small private businesses and housing. Public spaces are populated throughout most times of the day, although there are few public spaces, except from the streets, to meet and gather in. The streets are used as children?s playground, sport grounds, spaces for markets, workshops, public celebrations and other communal activities. There is no open space that has a clear status as focal or gathering point, such as a square or a plaza. Planning and design of urban public space include many different issues and factors that need to be taken into consideration. Such factors are function, context, space form, human needs, cultural aspects and identity. My intention has been to develop goals for development and revitalization of public space in La Florida, by using known planning and design tools that are discussed in the theoretical part. This means that the defined goals could be achieved by proposing actions or strategies that are known to bring certain effects. The planning and design proposals for revitalizing public space in La Florida aim at gaining more public open space as well as organizing existing public open spaces in order to create arenas for public activities and social life. The idea is that revitalization and development of public space also could be used as a mean to constitute and strengthen the identity of space and by so, also strengthen the identity of the community. The intention is to develop proposals that refer to the local and regional urban typology, space system, architecture and culture in La Florida and the region. The proposals are based on a development concept. This concept aims at developing an open space system that focuses on the centre area and the area around the ravine La Guacamaya that borders to La Florida in the north-east, together with the connection in between these areas and the shopping area that borders to La Florida in the south-west. In order to gain public open space, the proposal is to redevelop the two municipal sites in the centre of La Florida and the area around the ravine as public open spaces. The two new public open spaces in the centre will be formed and designed as plazas. In the regional context plazas are common types of public open spaces. The two new plazas, Plaza Floridiana and Plaza del Mercado, will have different characters and serve different purposes. Plaza Floridiana will have more of a civic function and character, such as of a plaza that houses different kinds of public ?get togethers?. In contrast, Plaza del Mercado is proposed to have a character of a casual public space. Plaza del Mercado is to partly serve as an outdoor market space during daytime. Due to the risk for erosion and landslides in the ravine La Guacamaya, the area around it is classified as a high-risk area. The proposal is to relocate the informal settlement that is situated on the site today, as intended in the Plan of Emergency developed by the municipality. Since the site is too hazardous for being grounds for housing, the proposal is to instead develop a public green park on the site. In parks people stay only temporary, which means that the risks for people?s life and health are reduced. As to further reduce risks for, fillings will be added into the ravine as to prevent erosion and landslides. The development concept also includes proposals for new public services and functions within the community. Along with development of new public services, such as a community centre, a new school adjacent to Plaza Floridiana and a police sub-station in connection to Plaza del Mercado, the revitalization of public space in La Florida is attempted to generate a positive evolution and improvement of the quality of life of ?los floridianos?.

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