Two worlds – the formal and informal sides of Caracas

The idea for this project began before I even noticed that it had started. I was born in Caracas Venezuela and have seen the slums, called barrios, for as long as I can remember. Before moving to the United States when I turned 16, I would catch myself thinking about ways in which I could help the poor people, as we call them. I also read a book in high school, it was a love story where the main character was an architect and he won a design competition where he proposed to move all the people from the slums to a new city in the middle of Venezuela as a solution for the overpopulation in Caracas. Without even knowing it, this story sparked an interest in me to someday find the solution to this problem. It wasn’t until my 4th year of undergrad that I realized that I have the power to help the barrios of Caracas be of better quality for their occupants, so they can live a better life. In one of my classes we watched a video about the projects that Urban Think Tank has performed in some of the barrios, I was so excited to hear about their work that ever since I’ve been interested in learning more about them and even wanting to do some projects of my own.

I decided that the Barrios of Caracas would be a great subject for my thesis and after being abroad for a semester this spring I have started doing my research on a world that was always next to me growing up but I never knew too much about. The first book I read is called “La cultura del barrio” (culture of the barrio), it was written by Pedro Trigo a priest who has spent a lot of time in the barrios learning about their culture. It was very shocking to read about the perception that the people from the barrios have about themselves is similar to the image that I had as a middle class girl. The book explains that the people from the barrios don’t feel that they belong to the formal city, and as a resident of the formal city of Caracas I know that I don’t belong to the barrios. The disconnection between the two ways of living was much more real to me after reading this book and it intrigued me. I can’t believe how two worlds can exist in the same physical space and not be connected, not interact with each other physically, I don’t even know where any of the entrances of any barrio in Caracas are. The only connection between the two comes with the social interactions that happen in the formal city, the construction workers, the house maids, the school custodians, etc. Other than these social interactions, the worlds don’t interact with each other. For now I want to find a way to connect the formal and the informal parts of Caracas with an architectural gesture, at the end of the day we were all born in the same city, why not share it with each other?


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