The Role of Ephemeral Interventions

Overcoming Crisis in Caracas

Karen Mata (MAUD’18)


‘ReFLORESTAndo’ Project: Process to generate economic resources and strengthen social institutions

Given the complex economic and political situation Venezuela is currently facing, it is critical to start questioning the scenarios produced by the duality of crisis and temporality while reflecting about the role of the city in overcoming crisis. This reflection is urgent for two reasons: firstly, because longstanding crises require long periods of recovery, especially when the social and institutional fabric has been damaged, generating a political trauma that has negative impacts on the execution of urban interventions. Secondly, because crisis that persist generate periods of normalization over social behaviors that modify space, institutions, and the focus and scope of urban interventions.

Henri Lefebvre tells us that “there is a politics of space because space is political.” In Venezuela, this has been taken to both extremes. On the one hand, interactions in public space tend to be more conflictive because of various insecurities and the strong division of society in two opposing political groups. On the other hand, and stemming from this tension, some of the last urban interventions seek to depoliticize the purpose of the projects. Between these extremes, it is also well-known that the public space is what defines the character of cities.

In this context, CCSCity450 emerges as a project for the reconstruction of the city, as part of the celebration of the 450 years since Caracas’s foundation and led by architects Aliz Mena, María Isabel Peña, and Franco Micucci. This project aims to create spaces for the discussion about the city, appropriation of space, and the urban memory while proposing alternative models for a possible reconstruction in Caracas.

At the end of last year they called for a competition of temporary urban interventions to tackle the crisis, all within a budget of $2,000.[1] Proposals addresed issues such as enhancing accessibility routes to a hospital, tackling food provision, and addressing the challenge of generating resources and empower existing social institutions within the community[2].

In this context, and given the selected projects to be implemented, it is necessary to think about what gets prioritized and who is benefiting from them. How much public participation is really necessary and pertinent? What are the forms in which people can communicate and collaborate to the other public institutions? This could be a way to tie together solutions for an ongoing crisis that demands immediate responses and plans that allow us to rethink ephemeral interventions as structural project bases. This is different to thinking of them as temporal forms of appropriation that will eventually disappear. This is what we should expect from ephemeral interventions in context like in Venezuela.

During any given crisis, the awareness of the urban realm’s trajectory over time is fundamental, both for finding new paths of opportunity and to lessen the difficulties of living in such a troubled city. In this sense, ephemeral interventions could have a leading role in the reconstruction of the state. Following an urban plan is essential, but more importantly this process must be visible to its citizens, because only then can it have the power to mold and influence future political projects associated with Venezuela’s reconstruction.

To overcome a crisis is to rethink what the future could be, it is to discover and focus on the future we want, based on our own difficulties. That way the difficulties or byproducts of the crisis will be allowed to be incorporated into the process of recovery, which consist on proposing alternative models to foster development initiatives that go beyond a public space that is just a mirror image of other realities.

This text was written as part of the Taller Ciudad Venezuela (Venezuela City Workshop) about the urban situation in Venezuela for an event organized by Venezuelan undergraduate students called Plan País (Country Plan) held in Boston University on March 30th and 31st. The session was moderated by Ignacio Cardona (DDes 19), with Andreina Seijas (DDes 20) as note taker. This is the first time that a session about the role of cities in the reconstruction Venezuela was introduced. It is an event that has taken place for more than eight years where groups of undergraduate students meet to study the future of the country.

[1] Because of inflation now that budget is less than half of what it was when the winners were announced.

[2] This last is a winner proposal called ReFLORESTAndo, by Rodrigo Guerra (MAUD’17) and Karen Mata (MAUD’18) in collaboration with Patricia Álvarez (MDES’18), Pablo Escudero (MDES’18) and Rudy Weissenberg (MDES’18).