Urban Desert: Pampas de San Bartolo

The aim of this studio is to present students with a situation of urban growth in an arid and impoverished area of Lima, Peru. Several design issues will be raised with regard to desert architecture and low-income housing. Considering the state\’s inability to solve the housing crisis, students will also be introduced to the potential of encouraging private investors to intervene in the development of urban communities. Inversiones Centenario, the Peruvian real estate company sponsoring this studio, has shown interest in creating a responsible precedent for the future expansion of Lima. URBAN DESERT:Cities and population centers situated on the Peruvian desert concentrate the existence of a continuous process of domestication of landscape through architecture. Such centers, overlapping in time, occupy a coastal strip 1,800 kilometers long, extending between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. It is a territory defined by a homogenous pattern of plains and elevated hills, interrupted regularly by valleys. Peru\’s capital, Lima, is located over three valleys and three hydrographic basins which constitute important sub-basins and a diversity of ecological soils. The Rimac, Chillon, and Lurin rivers are the principal collectors of this basin, belonging to the Pacific hydrographic system.URBAN PROCESS:The transformation of the desert throughout time has been complex: pre-urban patterns, permanent settlements that were interrupted by cyclic phenomena and ecological ruptures that produced depopulation and abandonment of the coast for a long time, followed by the production of popular and professional architecture that tried new ways to inhabit the desert during the last 400 years.Due to a complex and sudden migratory process, involving industrialization, agricultural crisis, and grave housing deficits, urban growth in Lima has been, for the most part, unchecked and relentless. The city, with its intense and explosive expansion, has taken over spaces strategically reserved as cultivation areas. Throughout the 20th century there have been vast popular mobilizations in urban areas to occupy lands in order to build shantytowns, known as \”barriadas.\”Over the last four decades this reality increased the process of \”littoralization\” of Peru. Due to economic growth around the capital, the Andean region has become depopulated in favor of the lowlands. Coastal cities hold 55% of shantytowns and 72% of Peru\’s population, while Lima holds 30%. On the other hand, in the absence of strategies for urban development, the city has forged a new logic of growth governed by disorder and socio-ecological instability: two of three valleys of Lima are extremely urbanized: 90% of the RC-mac valley, 68% of the Chillon valley and 16% of the Lurin valley.Lurin\’s basin is presently considered one of the city\’s few surviving green enclaves, though it is constantly threatened by land property conflicts, water management problems, and issues of urban density. URBAN ATTITUDE: In the midst of this urban crisis, architecture must operate in a way that addresses property rights and social marginalization. It is necessary to envision a new structure that will articulate this complex reality, instead of being only its reflection.We need potential strategies to approach and work in new directions that will create a balance between the different agents involved in the construction of the built environment (i.e. between the state, the private sector, and civil society).In order to preserve Lurin\’s lower basin the strategy will be to divert urban expansion towards Pampas de San Bartolo, a sub-tropical desert portion situated between 50 meters and 150 meters over the sea level contained by hills of 600 meters high, 50 kilometers from Lima\’s center. Future development is an unavoidable fact, and Pampas de San Bartolo is the only space in the v