The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


San Juan - Reactivating Disperse Urbanisms

29 August - 3 September. In collaboration with: Casa Taft 169, La Maraña, Pensar Urbano, Universidad de Puerto Rico.

For over 70 years, the Puerto Rican government has implanted an American suburban development model incompatible with the spatial, social and economic realities of the small island context. This has not only promoted the decaying and abandonment of its cities, but has also excluded the possibility of fostering civic engagement and introducing locally-based alternatives to its urban development.

In recent years, a new generation of Puerto Ricans have returned to San Juan in hopes of reactivating a more urban lifestyle, where they can enjoy walkable neighbourhoods, transit services and public spaces. Consequently, community-based initiatives have been mushrooming around the city motivated by the desire to make their voices heard, activate abandoned properties and reclaim participation in the urban realm. A group of skaters and environmentalists detained an illegal construction site in front of the ocean and later transformed the building’s foundations into our city’s first skate park.

Neighbours in the Machuchal sector squatted a 40-year old abandoned building in order to turn it into a self-run civic center and are now proposing a new public policy that will pave the way to integrate the third sector in the eradication of urban blight. And a community in Santurce is creating a pocket park in an area formerly used as an illegal dumpster site, thus establishing a new reference for how communities can partner with public and private sectors in the betterment of their public spaces.

In the wake of this unprecedented civic empowerment, we are compelled to offer voice and visibility to what could turn into a new social movement. The DPU summerLab will offer a platform to study the unique methodologies that this disperse network of initiatives has brought forth and work to decipher the gamma of possibilities in which their local action can continue to legitimize new avenues for bottom-up urbanism in Puerto Rico: in a territory facing more than 70 billion dollars in debt and three times the national poverty rate, it will be imperative for us to leverage our citizens as equal stakeholders in re-constructing and re-envisioning our cities.

**Please note, this workshop has not been activated for this year. We hope to work in San Juan for the next series in 2017.