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    Learning from Nicaragua - La Prusia

    Quilian Riano
    Apr 5, '08 3:47 PM EST

    We recently came back from a week studio trip in the neighborhood of La Prusia in Granada, Nicaragua. It was a great trip, the group bonded in 95 degree weather, hour-long trips in the back of pick up trucks, dirt roads, and interactions with the community of La Prusia. The most heartening was the interactions with the community, on one day we had over 200 people come out to tell us what they want in their community. In this meetings we heard something that reinforced a hunch I had from the beginning of the process, the biggest need is to fix the dirt road that serves the community.

    A couple of stories in particular stuck out, one man described how when the rainy season begins, and the road washes out, emergency vehicles refuse to go into the community. The result is that people in need are wrapped in hammocks and carried for a couple of miles into the town. Another woman described having to walk in complete darkness in a dangerous hole-filled road to give birth. The group I led, as one of the few Spanish speakers, was comprised of a few classmates, a group of students from Managua's American University, and a woman from La Prusia, the community in need, who is studying architecture in the University in Granada. We used our collective talents to help the community draw a new road as they dream it, an illuminated road with opportunities for jobs (restaurants, etc...), and public transportation.

    Besides the road, people also seemed excited about a housing project that could include larger social systems (schools, jobs, etc...) and truly create an economically and socially sustainable community.

    The trip was very exciting, now it is time for us to get to work to deliver on our end and help this community empower themselves. We are now focusing on the design of the road, the design of the 120 housing units that are at the heart of this studio, and the political and economic systems that we have to rearrange, using seed programs, to make the whole project work. More updates soon...

    Flickr Set of La Prusia

    Community Meeting in La Prusia. Photo by Brian Yang.


    • aml

      q, what happens after the plans are done? is there any financing ready to implement your designs, at least partially? or would your design allow the community to ask for help through other sources? could you tell us more about the possibilities for implementation? thanks.

      [i'm asking because i've participated in similar studios but the problem is often that after our planning, the authorities choose not to implement the proposal and nothing is done- very frustrating for all involved- i'd like to know ways to break this cycle]

      Apr 5, 08 6:36 pm  · 

      Hi aml!

      We are sponsored by a couple of NGO's who already own the land and have the resources in place to help get us going. WE of course are subject to the local political situation on the ground, and if there are any major changes in that front before we get going it could hurt us.

      We are planning to have a master plan approved by the end of the studio and then hope to begin construction in waves. A couple of us want to continue to work well past the final crit and we are trying to find funding to do so.

      Regardless, construction will hopefully begin by the end of summer.

      Apr 7, 08 10:14 am  · 


      I was wondering the same question as AML.

      That is awesome that you guys have some NGO support and funding.
      Sounds like you may already have a post-graduation job lined up...

      Apr 7, 08 11:43 am  · 

      no job, we even have to find grants to find our way back...

      It is important to mention that this studio is not about 'giving'. The hope is that the community contributes sweat equity and becomes a partner in the whole endeavor. We will provide systems of micro-loans, etc... to make sure that this housing project is intrinsically tied to the community's wishes and that they are the biggest stakeholders (with support) in the whole project.

      Apr 7, 08 12:05 pm  · 

      q, this sounds great. i'm currently coordinating my 2nd joint project between a local city hall, an american univ and a local univ. these are growth management plans. our problem is that, since they are sponsored by city hall, sometimes landholders or developers have a big say and can easily trash all the carefully made planning -also with community involvement, then the whole thing becomes frustrating for all-. this is still at the coordinating phase, but if it works, it will happen very quickly. the city hall has asked us to advice on ngo's that might be interested in helping, but i'm not sure if this will work on our case because the timing is so tight. anyways. thanks for posting.

      Apr 8, 08 9:43 am  · 

      q- it comes down to maintenance and materials- both of which cost either money or labor.

      there are several soil stabilization techniques that could be utilized for a low-cost improvement to create an all season road. From soil-cement & soil-lime mixtures to fancy polymer resins - modifying the soil of the road is one way. Adding materials like geotextiles or gravel/clay offer alternatives to asphalt at lower costs.

      Finally, look at the grading of the road and make sure there is sufficient crowning to shed the rain into drainage ditches next to the roadway, and install culverts to keep water from flowing over the road. Just using a dozer/grader few times a year to remove the ruts and potholes is a huge improvement. or getting the towns folks to manually level and repair the road if the heavy equipment is not feasible...

      Apr 21, 08 1:34 pm  · 

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