EFFECTUAL DECENTRALIZATION | Rosario - Argentina


Fadi Masoud and Mariusz Klemens

Latin-American cities, especially those of Indian Laws foundation, do not end but dissolve. Starting from a consolidated urban void, the never-ending grid spreads the increasingly low-density urban tissue until it fades away into the rural. The recently sprawling westward urban border of the city of Rosario, Argentina provides one the best case studies for this condition.

Bracketed by two small rivers marking the north and south limits of the city, the site for this project has been newly defined by the Urban Plan Rosario 2007-2017 as the New Strategic Territorial Front. A detailed analysis of the environmental context reveled what is seemingly a simple and flat condition, is in fact full of complex conditions. In that sense, it offers a compelling laboratory for suburban experimentation and the chance to define new responsibilities regarding the new and varied scales at which decentralization and urban expansion should operate today.

This project deals with one of the most pressing issues facing contemporary designers and planners: the relationship between agrarian conditions, natural processes and patterns of urbanization. In that light the project targets the most vulnerable edge of an expanding city and speculates on its potential growth through integrated responsive environmental and urban typologies. The flatness of the territorial front in the Pampas, much like many Greenfield zones in an expanding city, is subject to artificial and jurisdictional land use separation, zoning, and subdivision. The parcelization of the land for the building of new suburban subdivisions, does not take into account the extreme hydro-dynamics of these seemingly flat agricultural lands. The opportunity here is to see these sites as potential for these micro-watersheds to perform as a land subdivision mechanisms and to create a new landscape-oriented modality of seeing these types of territorial fronts.

The design process started by analyzing particular elements of the environmental, infrastructural and socio-economical context of the city in order to understand the current regional forces that shape its newly de-centralized and unsustainable configuration. The analysis has shown that the current regional and local infrastructure does not respond to any of existing environmental condition, furthermore, its centralized configuration provides an ineffective water and waste management, especially in high depravation zones.

In that respect, it took in the natural drainage patterns to clearly demarcate “micro-watersheds” that run along and through the site. Rather than following a normative planning approach to land subdivision and land use, the project appropriated these flow lines as potential units for a new landscape-driven zoning and parcelization regime. Since the site is currently not serviced by a centralized waste and water municipal network, the project proposed a new de-centralized configuration of infrastructure by utilizing existing topographic and hydrologic conditions to allow new typology of fully adaptive and flexible built form; a built form that performs in relation to local and regional environmental conditions.

Super-imposing this new “micro-watershed” driven-regime on top of a suitability zoning plan that responds to hydrological as well as geological /soil conditions, led to a type of zoning regime that protected the most arable land from development an allowed for the most floodable ones to become points of collection and treatment. Following new zoning strategy project focused on creating specific urban, agricultural and water treatment and management typologies responding to new type of zoning as well as flooding and soil conditions by developing specific typologies of new development, floodable development, agriculture and new water treatment buffer. By attempting to envision a new type of landscape-driven zoning and building code, our interventions touches upon the environmental, economic and social processes currently at play.

The integrated rapport between new land subdivision modalities, suitability land use designations, a decentralized waste water infrastructure, and responsive and adaptable built form typology creates the ingredients for novel forms and patterns of urbanization on the suburban edge. Recognizing that the Municipality has designated that the expansion of the city into the Pampas as a New Strategic Territorial Front, means that there are potentials for mitigating some of the consequences of negative planning and sprawling developments taking place at the edge of the city. What it also means is that there is the potential for landscape to take hold of what are seemingly ineffective means of urban expansion. In that sense, it gains agency in imagining new systems and forms for land subdivision, growth, and settlement patterns that are more responsive, flexible, and resilient to the environmental and socio-economic conditions of the urban periphery.