Threats and opportunities of Tourism
As we previously analyzed, tourism represents one of the most important sectors of the Peruvian economy, it engraves for 7% on the national PIL and it occupies the 11% of the economically active population. With its amazing growth it is the sector with the most rapid expansion. The historical sanctuary of Machu Pichu has been visited by 972.000 tourists in 2011 (in the same period Venice counted 3,5 mlns of arrivals) and they increase on average around 6% every year. Visitors induce a turnover of about 40 millions dollars yearly, they represent a fundamental source of income, especially for rural inhabitants who live employing subsistence agriculture, yet.
As it is in 2000, because of an excessive tourist pressure and the consequent decline of the Sanctuary, UNESCO declared it in danger and threatened to take away to the community the patronage on the site, trying to sensitize the government to a better protection. As it is said in Dourojeanni in 1985, the increasing of the tourist pressure, facilitated by a spread of not-regulated touristic operators, has damaged the entirety of the site and of the Inca Way. It has caused an overcrowding of people, a leakage of solid waste, the soil erosion and the mistreatment of local people who lend themselves to serve or follow tourists.
The main risk for the valley environment and landscape is represented by the rampant expansion of Agua Caliente. The village produces 3 tons of solid waste a year and it dumps into the river a plenty of waste water every day, which makes the Urubamba river one of the ten most polluted rivers in Perù.
In high season tourist pressure reaches the highpoint of 3.000 people a day. It represents one of the most urgent problems to solve. The management plan said that, in order to reduce the environment decline, the archaeological site should have a maximum capacity of 2.000 visitors a day, but the government indicates 3.400 people a day as a limit. The recommended limit is 2.500 visitors. (UNESCO, 2002).
To identify a strategy for next years will be of prime importance, in order to support the economic growth and ensure, at the same time, the preservation of the biological and cultural environment.
Potentiality of ecotourism
Ecotourism could be a valid solution for this problem: a more responsible way to travel which aims for the environment conservation and the rural community involvement in tourism development and management . With ecotourism most of the benefits stay to the community itself who is motivated to protect and preserve the cultural heritage.
From extensive analyses it arises the tendency of a stable growth of a kind of tourism more aware and responsible towards the environment, both in Peru and in the rest of the Planet. The Urubamba valley (that one which connects Cusco to Machu Pichu) and several others sites, with important environmental and cultural traits, have the big opportunity to attract this new tourist request. It allows to the local community to benefit from proceeds without compromising the social and environmental integrity of the site, in fact enhancing
The project’s main goal is to turn the overstressing touristic pressure in a precious chance for sustainable development.
The project foresees the creation of eco-touristic centers, managed and organized by local communities, as self-sufficient as possible for food, energy and resources, reducing the environmental impact.
Since these centers aspire to resilience and harmony with landscape and nature, they can be placed in protected areas, such as the Inca’s sanctuary park of Machu Picchu.
It is foremost indispensable to take advantage of all possible opportunities provided by the location, such as climate, landscape and existing manmade infrastructure (such as the valuable railway, still mostly usable). Landscape and environmental integration will be based on the deep knowledge achieved by studying the local population, traditions and environmental conditions.
This is the reason why to deepen the research on Andean culture, referring to the main architectural and social features.
Regarding the architectural character, the terracing inevitably becomes the protagonist of the project. The reinterpretation of the “andenes”, the typical terraces that shape the landscape combining artifice and nature, become the generating element of the whole project.
The drywall plays for us the leading role, not only in the terrain modeling but even in the construction of the settlement.
It was conceived in a sustainable key and it take advantage of local material and manpower through ancient traditional manufacturing techniques. The terraces, As overlapping levels perched on the steep Andean slopes acquire, different functions, depending on your needs: making the ground stable for agriculture, or giving support for stable foundations for buildings in inhabited places. Larger valleys and terraces can be used for subsistence agriculture of the new centers. The ratio of the inhabited versus cultivated areas will be constant for food self-sufficiency. The difficult access to the village will be facilitated by an efficient and low environmental impact infrastructure.
For what concerns the social character, the reference frame is again that of the Andean Ally and Ayllu. The eco-resort will be arranged to give equal opportunities and to ensure a better quality of life for the entire population of the valley, for all segments of society, using the old system of reciprocity that characterizes the Andean culture. The goal is to shift future investments from current receptive models imposed by international hotel chains, to a new receptive model which can value and protect the area, making the cultural diversity a potentiality for the future of the valley.
Development of the project: transport infrastructure
The project considers the salvage and the development of the Inca Train, which covers the whole Urubamba valley. By making the railway safe and its development, the ancient railway- line will be completely able to achieve its potentialities and will become a surface tube which will ease the connections through the valley. New It will contribute to oppose the confluence of tourists in Cusco and in Agua Caliente, allowing their scattering across the valley thanks to the realization of a range of intermediate stops which correspond to a new receptor system. New Ecoresort villages will be built in connection with new train stops, which example of land occupation will be played over the whole valley, ensuring both the proximity to the main archaeological sites that dot the entire area, which are currently difficult to achieve, and the occupation of areas that are not suitable for agriculture or that are not threatened by the periodic floods of the river.
Each new born station will be used for an aggregation of more Ecoresort, which are positioned at different hights on the slope of the mountain which set up the valley. The best choice for the connection between Ayullu and the railway is the land funicular. Its own features are copious : low sound level, zero CO2 emission, reduction land vibrations, low environmental impact and easy crossing of high and various gradients (from 20 to 40 degrees). It has the best connection between stops flexibility and cargo.
Environmental sustainability of new settlement
Environmental sustainability is understood as the ability to value the environment as a “distinctive element” of the area, while ensuring the protection and the management of its natural resources and of the heritage. The planning of the new settlement pattern and of cycles of necessary resources for its sustenance induces to consider the new Ecotouristic Resort as an ecological organism inserted into the natural cycles that govern the ecosystems of the valley. The goal is to achieve a circular metabolism where the resources consumption is reduced, the efficiency of the different natural processes is increased, and where the use of these resources is the best. The linear process which characterize villages and receptive traditional models will be replaced by a circular metabolism to use and reuse.
The fundamental issues to achieve this new model are:
1. Management of agriculture
The main goal of supportable development has passed from the mitigation of the climate change due to anthropological causes, to the increase of the wealth of human beings. The quality of life is obviously made of respect for nature and protection of climate, but firstly of nutrition and health. So, the role of agriculture becomes fundamental.
The aim for the project, as for agricultural range, is the food autonomy for the community. To the sustenance of the urban center it is necessary an area which produces food resources in sufficient quantity for all the people. If the supply equals the request, removing the timing of storage, the packaging materials and the energy for the transport, it minimizes costs, waisting-time and derived pollution, achieving a result which can be defined qualitatively excellent, both for the product and for the environmental impact: healthy food at zero kilometers.
Proceeding by this simple requirement, in order to understand how much agricultural surface is necessary for the sustenance of the urban center, we try to value the quantity of food essential for a human being, then we relate the cultivated area with the number of inhabitants who live there. Still thanks to FAO data and the Agricultural Department we can profile a list of agricultural products grown exactly in that Valley. These data allow us to define which is the hypothetic diet available for the inhabitants, without importing new species to cultivate. It is fundamental to pursue a policy for the maintenance of the habitat and the native species, in order not to create ecological imbalances. Little attentions or small expedients can produce a considerable increasing in productivity, which can reach even an increase of 30%. So, the project imagines the application of some of these devices, such as constant irrigation throughout the year (not just during the rainy season, when rain is already too much rich ) that is obtained through the project of small basins where water is collected upstream, which would retain the violent flow of water during the copious heavy shower (thus limiting erosions and floods). Another device is the use of wastewater and organic waste naturally processed (composting) deriving from domestic uses, in order to increase the supply of nutrients to the soil: a natural fertilizer. Another more expedient is the use of small greenhouses for improved and productive management of plants, upgrading the yield of the seeding and of the development at the earliest period of the growth of plants.
Actually in the calculation of the food availability it should be considered that the presence of population during the year it is not stable. If we were in the presence of just the inhabitants, the problem would not exist, but settlements will be occupied by inhabitants and tourists. As the number of inhabitants is constant, in contrast to the tourist stream, we should have to match the curve of the presences graph with the one of the food availability. So, we will succeed to ensure food cover, not only for the inhabitant, but also for tourists who are there in the different periods of the year.
2. The management of the water cycle.
In the project the water needed the maintenance of the population comes in part from the streams that descend from the surrounding mountain peaks and in part directly by precipitations, after being stored in special tanks for the phytodepuration located upstream of the villages. The water contained here is reserved for domestic use.
The wastewater is conveyed into a phytodepuration system to surface flow, placed downstream of the dwellings. The sludge derived from the pre-treatment will be periodically taken by farmers and used for fertilization natural ground. At the end of the process water, rich in nutrients, is made to flow into the irrigation channels located at the base of the terraces and after being mixed with the water coming from the streams is used for the irrigation of crops.
3. The energy
The energy required to meet the accommodation functions can be divided into two categories:
a. The energy in the form of heat, which is necessary to space heating and domestic hot water. The heat required will be given by a wood burning fireplace, built in the perimeter wall oriented to patio / terrace. The room air will be circulate inside the fireplace, and it will warming the room. It will also act as thermal power plant since inside it will pass the piping to heat the sanitary water; so will offset the gap thermal water coming from the solar panels on the roof and the accumulated heat in a boiler positioned at the side of the fireplace.
b. The electricity generated from renewable sources.
The Rio Urubamba, with a range of annual average of 1,200 m³ / s, with peaks of 2,191 m³ / s, is a sustainable energy resource. In this regard, a plausible proposal would be to adopt mini hydropower plants with the “flowing water” means a type that uses essentially the flow of the river. Derived structures have, in fact, the function of intercepting the flow in the river bed in order to divert a part towards a channel or a duct directed to the building of the plant.
To balance and improve the supply of electricity, you can use PV systems, as there is a solar radiation of 6 W / m² on average per day.
Social sustainability of the new settlements
For social sustainability we intend the ability of the involved subjects within the territorial system to act together, effectively and seeking for a same conception to carry on the project.
To archive this goal, the new Urubamba eco-resort relies on an organizational model that comes directly from that typical of Andean rural communities, namely “Ayllu.”
Those are self-sufficient territorial units grouping several families bond with kinship, exercising common properties and manage the resources in a collective manner.
The idea is to offer Ayllu the possibility of extending their community-based management of agricultural activity also to receptive activity. We distinguish then three levels of management:
1. The family, the very basic unit (5 people on average) involved in cultivation and management of the lands assigned by the community.
To it, in the new agritouristic organization, tasks related to the management of tourism and the cultivation of common land would be periodically assigned by the community.
2. Individual families gather then in larger groups called Ali (10 families), dealing with a particular territorial space and periodically appointing their own authorities. They will be responsible for managing small receptive units and will also take care of assigning specific tasks to individual families.
3. The Ayllu, is a group of descendants consisting of several Ali (namely 10 Ali) sharing the same territory and nominate its own authorities. Each Ayllu is composed by those Ali who refer to the same core of welcome and reception facilities and therefore represents the individual eco-resort, managed at Community level.
The involvement of the entire community rather than part of it is crucial to the success of the project.
Social sustainability as morphogenetic element
From the station to the valley, across the ground cableway, it is possible to reach the different eco-resort, different one another for size, facilities and comfort.
As soon as you get off the ground cableway you immediately meet the receptive area of the structure. It consists of a hall (a large parallelepiped covered with straw enclosing the reception, bar and a waiting room available for visitors), and all communal facilities for the village, such as multi-purpose rooms, laboratories, shops, offices. From this core service, the settlement spread along an entire public terrace that serves as a distributional and scenic route.
The morphological structure is nothing more than the physical translation of the social structure that
for centuries ruled the relationship between population and territory.
It consists of three hierarchical levels:
1. The Ayllu, public space that hosts the Hall and all the spaces devoted to touristic facilities and, community utilities.
2. The Ali a semipublic-axis perpendicular to the common path that allows to overcome the gap between the terraced floors. Around it the minimal units arise with variables geometry and growth ratio.
3. The minimal unit is the private space, consisting of the accommodation for tourists and residents.
Its structure directly derives from the traditional “Kancha” and consists of two spaces both overlooking a common court, an introverted space integrated in the terracing, in contrast with the immense Andean landscape.
The alternation of courts and inhabited spaces runs parallel to the slopes adapting to the topography.
From this very basic morphology, three building types are designed and aggregated with the most diverse geometries to create the single Ali.
Residents accommodation shows the typical features of traditional houses made of a single large multi-purpose space (between 20 and 30 square meters) that hosts the family, and is equipped with a fireplace overlooking the courtyard. Spaces for the kitchen and services are common to the two families and are located in the most outer part of the house.
Single rooms for tourists are instead en-suite solution with wardrobe.
They directly overlook the terracing: a private external space that opens up on the extraordinary outlook on the valley. The double room comes from the simple addition of a private courtyard followed by a second space.
The diversification of the offer (namely one, three or five stars) is achieved by the variation in the level of privacy in accessing the accommodation, through a different distribution and aggregation of building types for either tourists or residents. Obviously size and facilities that each room offers also change and above all changes the relationship between the number of tourists and the number of residents to support the receptive function. This report comes from the analysis of a case study, the eco-resort Posada Amazonas, at about 300 km away from the project, one of the first examples of eco-tourism in Peru based on involving the local community in the management of the resort.
The accommodations are designed realized step by step according to the real needs of its inhabitants and to the average tourist flow.
They consist of a durable structure, the rock walls of the terrace and a precarious structure, which is the entire accommodation, as it is made up of components can be easily assembled and disassembled. The coverage may possibly stay, once removed the cladding panels, and become a shelter for equipment or animals or rather a temporary warehouse for crops. This ensures to the whole construction sustainability over time.
We then imagine a future where eco-tourism will become a major instrument for social and economic development for the Urubamba Valley. A future in which local communities can become directly involved in decision-making processes by taking advantage of local customs and traditions in involving visitors: we imagine a new model of “Eco-resort” aimed at sustainable development in terms of social, environmental and economic wellbeing.
Status: School Project
Location: Aguas Calientes, PE
My Role: Principal architect
Additional Credits: Giovanni Formentin, Massimo Gatti