Rethinking and Resilience

Actions Without Borders promotes resilient communities

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The Habitat Program was launched in 2021 by the Action Without Borders Group (Architecture Without Frontiers International, ASF-Int). This is a collaborative initiative for rethinking communities that uses transdisciplinary tools such as opinion, negotiation and strategic vision to ensure sustainable transitions based on local capacity building and social innovation, as well as multi-level governance and codesign.

This initiative is an updated version of the “Neighborhood Plan” that was implemented between 2010-19 by the UIA Action Without Borders Work Group, ASF-Catalunya & ASF-Andalucía in different neighborhoods and communities across the world such as the Vallcarca neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain, the Salsipuedes community in the Dominican Republic, and the Milagro de Dios community in Ibague, Colombia.

The general objective is based on creating local networks that promote sustainable transition processes through three key phases: diagnosis; implementation; and observation and communication.

Habitat Program: Diagnosis by workshops

Following the guidelines of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 2030) and specifically objective 11—Resilient and Sustainable Cities—the Habitat Program promotes “Resilient Rethinking” workshops that aim to consolidate a methodology that analyzes and identifies tipping points for urban evolutionary dynamics and at the same time predicts future processes.

This diagnostic approach uses sustainability and action research so the participants can learn about urban participatory processes along with the set of tools that resilience rethinking provides in order to analyze how communities respond to global social and economic crises and tensions. The workshop design principles are based on technical documents for the local communities, which allow for the analysis, understanding and creation of a vision that anticipates future systemic changes such as climate change, the urban housing market, social justice issues, and pandemics.

These are the phases of the workshops:

  • Mapping documents related to the quantitative and qualitative risks analysis and visioning process.
  • Identify resilient indicators for the transition of social, technological, and ecological systems.
  • Apply the resilience thinking approach in terms of adaptive cycle concepts.

The different workshops that were carried out made it possible to diagnose the weaknesses and advance proposals that can add value to the city and safeguard its memory by establishing a new balance between the neighborhood and the city. For example, in the Milagro de Dios project in Colombia the participatory vision process promotes building skills for the community such as a women’s leadership program and the establishment of a union, which empowers the people to dialogue with the local government about indigenous rights related to displacements, as well as negotiate the legal issues pertaining to the current informal settlement.

Local community in Colombia.
Milagro de Dios community workshop, Colombia. Photo Rafael De Balanzo Joue

Habitat Program implementation by community self-management

 The Habitat Program focuses on exploring how communities rethink spaces and rebuild themselves through resilient urban initiatives. The implementation phase promotes the transformation of vacant lots, buildings, and urban spaces through creative actions and serve as a catalyst to explore new methodologies and new roles for networks that contribute to the development of neighborhoods.

In the Vallcarca case study, the “Som Barri” workshop was instrumental in contributing new regulations for an international urban renewal competition that included the reuse of the abandoned building Can Carol and the public space surrounding it, the maintenance of the community garden, and the creation of a land trust housing cooperative (Ruderal, Vallcarca Housing Cooperative) that dealt with neighborhood areas that could be transformed into useful green areas as well as entrepreneurial and housing programs.

The success of the Vallcarca Habitat Program has resulted in the Centre Civic Can Carol, a new community cultural hub self-managed by a network of local entities such as the Associació de Veïns Som Barri, School Parents Teachers Association Escola Montseny, and the Observatori de Vallcarca, among others.

Local community building urban furniture in Barcelona.
Community building urban furniture, Vallcarca neighborhood, Barcelona. Photo Rafael De Balanzo Joue

Observation and communication

The conclusions drawn from each case study—the experiences and actions combined with the analysis of other cases or realities—embody an increasingly structured knowledge base, which can be disseminated in diverse ways such as community activities, publications, exhibitions, symposiums, and continuing education courses. The first virtual #OpenSeminars series will be organized by the ASF-Int Action Without Borders (AWB) Work Group focusing on the comparison of case studies in the Global South and Global North at the 2021 UIA International Union of Architects Congress at Rio de Janeiro, in cooperation with the Universidad Federal do Rio de Janeiro and several other partners. The fundamental objectives are to contextualize the mechanisms of community development; present theoretical, political, and technical concepts that can improve living conditions; as well as exchange knowledge through case studies and collaborative actions with communities in different parts of the world.

Main image: Can Carol before its transformation into a new community center for the  Vallcarca neighborhood, Oliveras Boix Arquitectes, Barcelona, 2017. Photo Xavier González/Oliveras Boix Arquitectes

Architecture Sans Frontières International

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