Recommended Reading: Radical Cities


One project I would like to highlight from this book by Justin McGuirk is: Metro Cables designed by Urban Think-Tank (U-TT). In search for collaborative design approaches I came across this book at Red Emma’s when I attended his book reading a few years back. The book highlights several projects across Latin America that utilize what seem like “radical” and “innovative” approaches to Western eyes. As an immigrant from one such “radical city” in Bolivia I was both skeptical and intrigued by what he had to offer in his book. The book in essence highlights various design approaches and projects from which key lessons can be learned for how we can co-create, collaborate, and innovate as we pave way for the future.

Metro Cables Caracas came out of a serious need from a community, San Agustín, that had been geographically isolated in Venezuela that posed a series of other socio-economic concerns for residents of that area. This was a unique problem that, in fact, affected not just various communities across the Venezuela but also across the world.

Below is a an excerpt from the project:

 In Caracas, inhabitants of the hilltop barrios have been traditionally denied many of the essential services enjoyed by their fellow citizens. In this context, architects must sometimes function as activists and mediators, bridging the gap between top-down planning and community organizing. The Metro Cable project originated as an accupunctural alternative to unnecessary and destructive urban development. In 2003, U-TT began researching the mobility crisis within San Agustin, an informal settlement with approximately 40,000 residents. Situated on a ridge adjacent to Avenida Lecuna, San Agustín was separated from the city by a major highway and canal. Residents spent hours climbing up and down steep stairs everyday to access jobs and schooling. During the rainy season, many of these paths were dangerous or impossible to use due to flooding.

To address San Agustín’s isolation, the government had announced a plan to construct a new road system and bus lines. Using mapping and modelling tools to analyze the impact of the proposal, U-TT identified that the plan would require the removal of up to one-third of San Agustín’s homes. This would have uprooted thousands of families and splintered social and livelihoods networks.

U-TT proposed instead to introduce a minimally invasive cable car system linking the barrio to the city below through a series of stations. Developed after numerous site surveys, community workshops, and consultations with international experts, the plan also called for “plug-in” buildings – flexible structures attached to each station that would provide housing, as well as cultural, community, and recreational programs.