February 19 2013

Sudestadas and the Relationship of Buenos Aires with the “River Plate”

It has been said many a time that Buenos Aires, Argentina is a port city that forgot it had a coastline. This can be felt in various parts of the city where access to the largest estuary in the world, the Río de la Plata, which completely surrounds Buenos Aires, is almost non-existent.

But the city does get reminded from time to time of its large waterfront, as having this massive amount of water very close consequently leads to problems when nature unleashes its strength.
Picture by official photographer Ricardo Pristupluk- Sudestada, September 2012

The Sudestada is a meteorological phenomenon common in the area of the River Plate. The Sudestada exists due to a rapid rotation of cold winds coming in from the south to the south-east, combining the cold air from Antarctica with the ocean’s humidity. This sudden and violent change produces a dangerous increase of waves and strong rainstorms in the estuary, causing flooding in cities on either side of it.

It is here where we fix our attention on how a city can confront the unintended consequences of misguided approaches to urbanism, especially when environmental context is not taken into account. When environmental context is not taken into account, we end up living in a city that is ultimately unprepared to confront urban flooding on a great scale. Buenos Aires faces many issues as a result of planning the city as if it were Paris, when its geography is more similar to the low countries of Europe.

Image by official photographer Silvana Colombo-Sudestada, October 2012

So, what can be done to fix this problem? Around the world there have been several ideas to help bring relief to these situations, especially concerning the issue of increasing recurrence in the developing world. One special report from the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, GFDRR, came to my attention due to its applicability to the specific problems in Buenos Aires.

In this report, we find the inclusion of projects presented by a specialized architecture studio from the United Kingdom, Baca Architects, which relates to city-neighborhood flood risk management measures, directed especially towards building level measures and the responsibility of individuals in flood risk reduction.

Image by UK-based 'Baca Architects' Project for Prevention or Urban Flooding

I think these types of measures that do not include more technical adaptations to buildings and basic flood defences, but are aggressive in instructing the population about how to prevent these types of floods, are what cities like Buenos Aires need. In the end, the main concerns must be directed towards the population and so, eventually, the urban planning misdirection of the past can be solved, with lasting solutions to a problem that only continues to head in the wrong direction.

Do you think these palliative measures can last and really solve misguided planning? Can the population make a difference at this point?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Luis Lozano-Paredes

Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then moved to Argentina in 2006. There, he finished the Common Basic Cycle of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires before pursuing studies in Landscape Design at the same Institution. Inspired by the Urban Transformation of Bogotá in the past decades, his interests evolved from Landscape Architecture to his current passion; Urban Planning, Policy Making, and Sustainable Development. He plans to continue his studies in Urban Planning and Sustainability in Canada, Chile, or the U.S.; but for the moment he currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Metropolitan Transport Studies of the University of Buenos Aires and is a Member of the Observatory of Urban Sustainability at Belgrano University. Luis’ main interests lay within the study of Smart Cities, Urban Sustainable Development, and Social Architecture in Latin America.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 at 9:01 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Infrastructure, Luis Lozano-Paredes, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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