February 05 2013

The “Comuna 13″ Project: Solutions From and For the Neighborhood

Like many cities in Latin America, Buenos Aires has many barrios so different between them that on some occasions there appear to be small cities inside a city.

Acknowledging this historical fact, and in an effort to de-centralize the functions of the City Government in this divergent city, the system of comunas was established. This system means that the city has started to assign different facilities and institutions into a collection of neighborhoods, bringing the government closer to the citizens.
Official Symbol used by current Government of the City of Buenos Aires

It is in this way that Comuna 13 (responding to the neighborhoods of Belgrano and Nuñez) is taking a step further from the mere improvement of governmental reach and institutional functioning. Comuna 13 is actually leading a process which promotes the inclusion of citizens and promotes active participation on day-to-day issues. This system promotes a new way for urban planning.

For example, last spring a process of public consultation commenced in order to solve a recent environmental problem that had been brought to attention. Every summer torrential rainfall hits Buenos Aires, in a scale unprecedented and influenced clearly by climate change during these past few years. The direct consequence of this exponential rain is urban flooding and material losses for people living in Belgrano’s commercial district, the area most affected.

Taking this under consideration, Comuna 13 approached the population with a direct proposal: Accounting for the reduced budget the city government has and the unpaid insurance reparations for all material losses since 2010, what can be done with the money we have? What does the affected population want?
Citizen participation in the Green Surface Expansion Project

Guided by the city’s government experts, responses were varied; but the majority of them stated an imperative need for more green surfaces in order to absorb the increased amounts of rain. This led to the final proposal for a reduction in walking space on sidewalks, creating a long green extension on every block.

Actual situation of the Belgrano Neighborhood streets

Proposal for the expansion of green surfaces

Though all of this is said to be paid for entirely by the government, some inhabitants may have to sacrifice private property space in order to improve the neighborhood’s overall condition.

As this project has yet to be implemented (full expansion expected by January 2014), only time will tell if it does the trick and avoid flooding completely. But for now, the Comuna 13 can praise itself for creating the first example of full citizen participation and full population-government collaboration in the City of Buenos Aires.

Would you sacrifice your property space for the benefit of the neighborhood?

Credits: Images provided by Luis Lozano-Paredes. 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 5th, 2013 at 9:55 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Infrastructure, 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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