AXP invites communities to self-organize around neglected spaces, collaborating with local residents to identify areas of neglect that could be improved by good design and collective effort. They then work with community organizations to navigate (or in some cases avoid) the civic bureaucracy. The collective is careful to avoid a central role, providing only the design and construction expertise for the execution of the projects. The collective’s design philosophy relies heavily on an embrace of sustainable, affordable, and reclaimed materials.
Since 2015, Arquitectura Expandida has been working on Le Casa de le Lluvia, or the Brainstorming House, in Bogotá. The project is conceived as a cultural and environmental community center in a context of informality and scarce investment from municipal authorities. Since its conception, the process has been promoted by several community leaders and collectives from seven neighborhoods around the Fucha River in the eastern hills of Bogotá. Together, they constantly promote manifold, small-scale projects to improve the neighborhood, from sanitation to reforestation, waste cleanup, and land removal. These are the kind of socio-spatial improvements that should be provided/supported by the municipality, however, due to the legal constraints affecting the entire neighborhood (a legalization process that has lasted over 20 years), local authorities are reluctant to execute major (and urgent) infrastructure projects.
Since 2015, the Fucha neighborhoods have been regularized by the mayor’s office. However, this regulation was announced alongside news of extensive damages to property and the displacement of families who live in an area qualified as at risk of natural disasters. Moreover, the public administration is not willing to invest in mitigation, although it has done so to enable other strategic urban projects. Now, La Casa de la LLuvia has become a neighborhood symbol of resistance and of the right to the city, for which many families have fought after years of state neglect.
We had an opportunity to have an extended conversation with Arquitectura Expandida on Social Design Insights. Listen to the episode below.