The INbetween Gaps

The Historic Center of La Guaira is in desperate abandoned conditions. After surviving a massive landslide in December of 1999, and plainly being neglected for many years, the majority of the still standing buildings have been left alone. Some of the facilities are still filled with dirt from the landslide. The Fundación La Guayra Ciudad Histórica has the mission to bring back life to this historic city and transform it into a tourist attraction for Venezuelans and foreigners. Their hope is to have in La Guaira what, for example, San Juan in Puerto Rico has. Since most of the buildings, if not all, are protected for their historic value, and also to keep the essence of the city of La Guaira, it is imperative that the new additions and improvements maintain that historic value and image. The first few projects that will be constructed in this area will be some hostels. The main idea is that by transforming little by little every square inch of the Historic Center, the citizens and the barrio occupants that live behind the center will take pride in their territory and make it bloom. By enhancing the existing conditions of the Historic Center, the barrio occupants will benefit in many ways. First they will be able to work in the hostels, or even establish their own business by the hostels. As a result they will have a steady income, and will more likely spend that money improving their homes. Another great organization, the Fundación Boulton, has rehabbed two of the existing buildings in the historic center and turned them into a Culinary School and a Woodwork School, with the intention of providing young adults (in high school and graduates) with the skills necessary to utilize in the future hostels of the historic center.  All this great positive energy is bound to affect its surroundings.

The barrio Muchinga is located directly behind the Historic Center. It is a rather small barrio with only 60 housing units, but it has been around for over 200 years. The current residents recently got a government grant that allows them to acquire basic construction materials for rebuilding their homes. These materials are: clay brick, concrete, re-bar, and basic plumbing. The money each household gets allows them to rebuild the first level of their homes, but they have to build the rest of the house with their own money. Currently, 20 of the 40 houses that received the grant are under construction. Some houses are being built by their owners, and the rest are being built by neighbors. Since the barrio is very small, it doesn’t have enough space for gathering areas, and the ones that could be used for gathering are now occupied with construction materials. Also, the only way up to the houses is through a series of stairs, and the construction materials have to be manually carried up the stairs. However, one of the best qualities of this neighborhood is the view that most of these houses enjoy. The international port, the coast line and the historic center’s roofs of clay tiles are visible from almost everywhere in Muchinga.

The most intriguing part of the barrio however, is the existing gap between it and the historic center. There is a row of ruins that separate the two, and no one seems to have any plans for what could potentially be a great space for the barrio and the historic center. This project will intend to figure out what the best function for these untouched spaces is, in a way that maintains the historic integrity of La Guaira, and at the same time provide a better future for the Muchinga barrio occupants. This gap can be the melting point where both worlds, formal and informal, collide. Some of the ideas floating at the moment are: more specialized schools for young adults to learn for the future tourism center, or public gathering facilities (for both the barrio occupants and the historic center), medical facilities, agriculture gardens. As the project evolves, these gaps will become what the community of Muchinga and the historic center need to prosper and become the great tourism attraction that it was meant to be.

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