Felipe Vera

Design Critic in Urban Planning and Design

Felipe Vera is a Chilean architect and urbanist working as Sector Specialist at the Housing and Urban Development Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). At IADB, he leads urban design and planning programs and regional technical cooperation, focusing on slum upgrading, resiliency, and ecological design.

In Argentina, he leads several initiatives for the urban integration of informal settlements and housing programs including the Neighborhood Improvement Program, which seeks to improve the habitability of dwellings located in precarious settlements and has been carried out in more than 580 neighborhoods; the Urban Integration Program of Barrio 31 in Buenos Aires, an intervention of resilient public space and incremental housing in Argentina’s most complex, dense, and emblematic slum; and the Social and Urban Integration Program, which aims to promote social integration, climate change mitigation, and adaptation initiatives using ecological principles in the poorest neighborhoods in the country.

In Chile, he leads the Integration of Vulnerable Neighborhoods Program, which focuses on national and immigrant households in informal settlements and promotes the social and urban integration of migrants and receiving communities in precarious neighborhoods. Additionally, he leads projects based on ecological design and green infrastructure, metropolitan governance, and resiliency such as the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Low-income Housing Program, which aims to increase the contribution of the housing sector to the mitigation of climate change; and the Cities of the Day After Program, which strengthens the ability of Latin American cities to produce design responses to ecological, sanitary, and humanitarian disasters. The portfolio of projects he leads represents development investments for 700 million dollars and an agenda of knowledge generation for urban interventions at national and subnational levels in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil.

His knowledge work focuses on exploring the agency of temporality and the potential of design imagination for synthesizing more adaptable solutions made up of softer strategies, which are elastic, reversible, and capable to encompass a wide spectrum of unpredictable city pressures. In relation to this, Vera has written and lectured extensively on issues about urban design and planning, migration, and ecology in vulnerable contexts. He is the author of several books and publications aimed at understanding and designing strategies for building resilience in vulnerable cities. Some of these include “Informing the Informal: Strategies for Generating Information in Vulnerable Settlements” (2021), which covers topics such as data collection for designing urban policies in precarious areas; the Inmigrando series, comprised by the books Strengthening Destination Cities (2020), Building Plural Cities (2020), and Understanding Cities in Transition (2021) —which seek to understand migration flux, its impact, and potentials on destination cities. Other publications include “Ecological Design: Strategies for the Vulnerable City: Adapting Precarious Areas in Latin America and the Caribbean to Climate Change” (2021), “Housing: What’s Next? From Thinking Unit to Building the City” (2018), and “City Design, Planning & Policy Innovations: The Case of Hermosillo” (2019). In relation to urban issues and the impact of the pandemics in cities, he has edited “How Have Cities Responded to COVID-19 in Vulnerable Areas?” (2020), and “What Can We Do to Respond to COVID-19 in Informal Cities?” (2020). Previously, in collaboration with Rahul Mehrotra, he edited the books Ephemeral Urbanism: Does Permanence Matter? (2016), Ephemeral Urbanism: Cities in Constant Flux (2015), and Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Mega City (2014).

Vera has been the director of the UAI Research Center for Ecology, Landscape and Urban Planning and a lecturer at Harvard’s GSD. At UAI he wrote the books Andrea Branzi: Ten Recommendations for a New Athens Charter (2015) and Dissolving Thresholds (2015). He was appointed curator of the 2017 Chilean Architecture and Urbanism Biennial named ‘Diálogos Impostergables,’ [Unpostponable Dialogues] (2017) which tackled the question of how design could provide alternatives to the most pressing challenges that inequity, climate fragility, and migration bring to our cities. He has also curated diverse installations at other biennials such as Housing: What’s Next? at the International Biennial of Architecture of Buenos Aires (2019); Does Permanence Matter? at the Pinacotek Der Moderne in Munich (2017); Ephemeral Urbanism: Cities in Constant Flux at the Venice Biennale (2016); and Radical Temporalities at the Urbanism\Architecture Bi-City Biennale (UABB) of Shenzhen and Hong Kong (2015). He has curated exhibits in Chile and abroad, like Glosario para el Nuevo Milenio at the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Santiago MAC (2015). His work has also been in exhibitions about urbanism around the globe, such as Constellations: New Ways of Living the world at Arc en Rêve in Bordeaux (2016) or Uneven Growth at the Museum of Modern Art of New York MOMA (2014).

He graduated from Universidad de Chile’s Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism (2009) and earned his MDes in Urbanism, Landscape & Ecology from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (2013) as a Fulbright scholar.