Between Favelas and Gated Communities: Future-Oriented Urban Planning in Latin America

Favelas, comunas, pueblos jóvenes, etc. are just a few of the names of urban areas in Latin America that people commonly associate with illegality, crime, precarious housing and inadequate basic services. We are talking about urban areas of poverty that often develop near the city center, while wealthier residents retreat to the outskirts creating settlements, secured by walls and fences, and controlled by security guards. Settlement patterns thus reflect increasing social segregation and hardening social relationships in many Latin American cities.

Brandenburger TorGruppenarbeit 1In the seminar “Between Favelas and Gated Communities: Future-Oriented Urban Planning in Latin America”, 30 fellows from 10 countries wanted to learn more about the central elements of sustainable urban development,. They also asked how modern urban planning can deconstruct the social distance and inequality reflected in existing settlement patterns. Dr. Eva Dick (German Development Institute, Bonn) reported on the new urban agenda presented at the UN Habitat III conference in Quito in October 2016 (compact settlement development with room for public spaces, economical use of resources, empowerment, public transport, healthy living conditions for all etc.). In her lecture she emphasized again and again the necessity to involve city dwellers in project planning.

Gruppenarbeit 2StadtThe Mexican architect Mariana Enriquez, who lectured on “gated communities” in Mexico, not only pointed to ecological and traffic problems of these settlements (too much urban land for small numbers of inhabitants, traffic congestion at peak times etc.), she also showed that the justification of this form of settlement by constant reference to poor security situation in the cities reproduces and consolidates the widespread image of the violent city.

UnterweltenIn various presentations prepared by participants, cable car projects as measures to modernize urban traffic systems (Medellín and La Paz) received a positive assessment with regard to greater social integration in urban areas, despite existing weak points, that students also identified. The seminar confirmed the need to promote public transport in general and to make the state (in dialogue with city dwellers) more responsible for the development of urban spaces (e.g. modern social housing).