by Avi Salem | CED Communications
Photo courtesy Jason Craig Prado
Over the course of the winter break, eight graduate students from the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning at the College of Environmental Design traveled to the city of Portoviejo, Ecuador to work alongside CED alumnus and landscape architect Gustavo González (MLA ‘90) to create new, sustainable scenarios for rebuilding the areas surrounding the city’s main river, el Rio Portoviejo.
Led by Chair and Professor of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning Louise Mozingo and Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning Joe McBride, the one-week workshop tackled redevelopment and rebuilding for the city of 250,000 after major damages were sustained to its infrastructure from the April 2016 7.8 magnitude earthquake. González, who was put in charge of Portoviejo’s Plan Ciudad, recruited CED students to help come up with proposals for rebuilding and revitalizing the city’s neighborhoods and city transit centers in ways that impacted the future development of the city.
“When the earthquake happened, there was a lot of sustained damage in the city and significant subsidence in the neighborhoods adjacent to the river, some of which had informal housing,” explained Professor Mozingo. “Because the earthquake coincided with issues of flooding already affecting the areas surrounding el Rio Portoviejo, there was massive dredging of the river which led to loss of habitat.”
Students were tasked to research and propose plans for two specific areas: The watershed as a whole, in order to investigate where the flooding issues were coming from, and the La Paz neighborhood, which was one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the earthquake and subsequent flooding. La Paz, a busy residential hub close to downtown and transit centers, sustained damages that led to displacement and interrupted flows of transit and commerce. Much of La Paz’s housing was considered uninhabitable after the quake, and many residents were moved to government-built housing at the edge of the city.
“Our task in La Paz was to look at the neighborhood through the complexity of the river, transit center, main market and downtown, using that section of the river as an example for opening the river up to the city as a public open space,” Mozingo said. “We were asked to come up with opportunities to replace housing within the general vicinity of the neighborhood as opposed to at the city’s edge, build new commercial development in these damaged areas, and provide other kinds of public space improvements within the neighborhoods, including circulation and connectivity improvements.”
After one week, CED students prepared presentations on topics relevant to Portoviejo’s new city plan to present to staff members and planners in the mayor’s office. Topics ranged from managing housing in flood areas and urban forestry to informal housing and incorporating nature in the city. In addition, Professors Mozingo and McBride gave public lectures on landscape planning to city officials, further informing the rebuilding process.
This spring, the cohort of graduate students will continue development of their plan for improving Portoviejo, concluding in a final report that will be sent to González and his partners in Ecuador. Professor Mozingo hopes that the students’ hard work this semester will help contribute to the finalized plan for the city, paving the way for future redevelopment.
“Our work at UC Berkeley will help catalyze the next phase of implementation, which will be led by González’s office,” she said. “We plan to remain involved in rebuilding in the right ways for the future development of the city.”