Shaping the periphery:
Emergent architectures in Latin America
In an age that has become interested in urban issues at the planetary scale, it is advantageous for architectural design research to bridge the micro, meso and macro scales of the built environment. This article addresses the macro by comparing metrics of global urbanization, and then outlines the disparities between ‘the urban condition(s)’ found in North and South America. A more nuanced description of the uneven conditions of geographical development found in formal and informal constructions in Latin America sheds light on the context of this study, which sets the stage for a presentation of research that investigates several socially disjointed environments that represent the spatiotemporal conditions present in much of the contemporary Latin American urban landscape. This work has involved the participation of undergraduate students, graduate architecture students and faculty at Universidad Piloto de Colombia. The design research addresses the conditions of the emergent conditions of Latin American cities through participatory action research. Aspects of this research have been introduced into a design research studio setting where students have mapped the urban conditions and levels of forced displacement. Over the past 4 years, a network of private and public institutions and a NGO have worked with a vulnerable community located at the southern periphery of Bogota, Colombia to articulate alternative visions for future development than what has been scripted by the local planning department. The physical transformation of several strategic points of their neighborhood has begun through processes of ‘autoconstruccion’. This paper outlines these processes and the observed impact that the transformation of the built environment has fostered in the community.