LATIN AMERICA IN TRANSITION: Imagining Infrastructures for Climatic Migration

The world is facing a moment of growing climate and migratory uncertainty. The accelerated intensity of natural and humanitarian disasters is giving rise to new and more complex forms of vulnerability. Migration has acquired an unprecedented dimension, while the infrastructure that will respond to climate displacements remains unanswered. Before the pandemic, projections indicated that the share of migrants in the total global population would increase from 2.8% in 2010 (190 million people) to 3.5% in 2050 (334 million people)—today, projections are higher and anticipated to grow. Furthermore, predictions signal that in following decades, there will be migratory displacements of up to 200 million additional people because of environmental factors. Rising sea levels, changes in rainfall distribution patterns and in ocean chemistry will strongly affect coastal cities, where 77% of the at-risk global population resides. In the years to come, a more vulnerable migration landscape will increase the demand for rapid response settlements, which poses a new set of challenges for destination cities.

These unprecedented projections have casted doubts over the true capacity of cities to absorb the impact of future climate migrants. Therefore, a reframed design imagination is needed to prepare cities for the consequences of climate change, and especially for cities to absorb human displacement. In response to this challenge, this studio will be a space to speculate about the required urban infrastructure needed to strengthen the capacity of destinations to take in climate migrant flows. We will focus on the case of Chile, planning and designing infrastructure for future extreme climate migration, testing potential solutions, and framing urban interventions in the most vulnerable contexts. The group will reflect on how to, on the one hand, anticipate climate migration, and on the other, adapt the urban fabric taken up by those most heavily exposed to climate risk.

The studio will be divided into four modules. The first module, “Anticipating Scenarios”, will focus on developing climate scenarios for 2050 and methodologies for visual representation, forcing us to speculate about extreme weather conditions contextualizing the landscapes of intervention. The second module, “Understanding Sites”, will focus on understanding places of operation; we will use the 2021 cadaster of informal settlements and its projections to frame the intervention scenarios. As a way to design for the effects of climate change in diverse geographies, sites will be located in 4 geographically distinct cities that have faced massive migration fluxes in the last years and which are projected to intensify: from the northern Antofagasta region to the central Metropolitan region. The third module, “Defining Strategies”, will focus on defining domains of engagement and the scale of the design interventions. Finally, the module “Designing Transitions” will focus on defining and developing proposals at various scales. We will test innovative strategies at the intersection of architecture, landscape, urban planning, and design.

The studio is open to students across all departments and programs. As a collective project, the work will be showcased in an exhibition called Latin America in Transition. We will also collaborate with DRCLAS Art, Film, and Culture Program from the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in a parallel symposium that will inform the work of the class, gathering experts on the topic across Harvard University and Latin America more broadly.

This course will meet weekly on Thursdays and Fridays.
Felipe Vera will be in residence on the following days: January 27, 28; February 10, 11; March 3, 4, 31; April 1, 14, 15, 28, 29; and for final reviews.
Soledad Patiño will be in residence on the following days: February 17, 18; March 24, 25; April 7, 8; and for final reviews.
Class will be held via Zoom on all other Thursdays and Fridays.