Institute without Boundaries

People Change Places. A Revitalization Plan for Lota, Chile

The 2010–2011 academic year is the second year of the City Systems project at the Institute without Boundaries (IwB). This year’s project attempted to understand how to build more resilient cities. The team’s focus was on resolving the challenges facing Lota, a municipality in Chile. Lota was brought to the IwB’s attention by Latin American Canadian Art Projects (LACAP), a Toronto arts organization, who partnered with the city after the February 2010 earthquake. The complex and difficult problems facing this municipality were an ideal case study for the IwB’s interdisciplinary approach to whole systems design and social innovation

Lota is mysterious and friendly, timeless and vibrant, tragic and hopeful. There is enormous potential in Lota to both enhance existing assets and build on opportunities to create a resilient city. The team has prepared a revitalization plan to help catalyze this potential. Over the course of these eight months, the team came to love Lota and its people and is humbled to have had the opportunity to help shape its future.

This revitalization plan for the community of Lota, Chile titled “People Change Places”, responds to planning and design challenges provided by the elected municipal government of Lota. Lota’s most important asset, its human capital, has been identified as the catalyst for this plan and for the future of the city. The recommendations  are based on the citizens’ vision as understood through field research conducted by the IwB and its affiliates in Lota. The six strategic objectives and 16 projects feature implementation plans, designs and financial projections that reflect achievable goals that will maximize Lota’s human resources and capacity towards revitalizing its city. It all begins with people and the idea that Lotinos are Lota.

People Change Places is a design strategy rooted in immediate collective action to catalyze the implementation of six strategic objectives that will foster resilience in Lota.

For more information about People Change Places:

Housing & Leadership
Housing Program: Housing proposals are designed to take advantage of a variety of existing subsidies provided by Chile’s Ministry of Housing and Planning (MINVU). These subsidies aim to help low-income families build houses that can be expanded over time.Business Improvement Area: A BIA in Lota would foster business growth and community improvement. This might be housed in a renovated former Union Building.
Lota Verde: Lota Verde is an initiative to engage the community and neighbourhood associations in urban beautification projects including community cleanup and community gardening festivals. Not only will these projects build a stronger sense of community, but can also serve to educate citizens, foster economic growth and begin conservation efforts for future generations.
Sports Leadership Program: The sport leadership program teaches new skills to youth who can in turn pass them on to future generations, develops opportunities for new economies in health and nutrition and creates spaces where community members can interact with each other.
Public Space Enhancement
The Rings: Expanding on the natural ring of forested hills that encircles part of the city through cleanup initiatives, and implementing new green paths will bring nature into the life of the city and improve connectivity. Likewise, development and upgrades to the “urban ring” (the city’s infrastructure) will also improve connectivity, making access to residential areas and the city’s economic core.
Path Typologies: A variety of path types are developed to serve a variety of needs in either the natural ring, the urban ring or both.
Kit of Parts: An assortment of different pieces of public furniture are created and inventoried, colour-coded for each ring. Materials are listed for each piece.
Entrance – North Gateway: The creation of a new gateway into the city from the North would involve implementing new pedestrian paths, installation of new signage and lighting, restoring the city’s crest and landscaping the site. This initiative would improve connectivity and aesthetic appeal as well as serving as a marketing opportunity for the city.
Fuerte – South Gateway: The Fuerte in the city’s south provides one of the best views of the city and its development can turn it into a tourist destination and creates a source of pride in the city as it gives residents a place to reflect on Lota’s history and geography.
Playa Blanca: Already a popular destination in the city, the beach’s experience for visitors can be improved with the construction of a boardwalk. Furthermore, a lifeguarding program will increase safety and employment opportunities. Improvements such as these will help drive tourism in the area.
Alto Parque: This open space parkette located near the city Stadium will allow people to meet and socialize. Elements of the park like the water playground will create spaces aimed at fitness and sharing of public space. This park is an example of greening in the city’s abandoned city spaces.
Plaza De Armas: The design for this important public plaza will improve the flexibility in the possible uses of the space and encourage public interaction and safety. The revitalization will attract new businesses within the plaza and become an extension of the nearby market, stimulating the economy by attracting visitors and adding vibrancy to the city’s downtown core.
Camino Verde: Providing a link between the downtown core, market area, train station and entrance to the city, this park corridor will increase Lota’s connectivity and visual appeal while also creating opportunities for small businesses and developing relationships between different areas.
Increased Mobility
Train Station: The reopened train station is very important to the connectivity of the city as well as the larger Biobío region. This project helps to overcome Lota’s geographic isolation by giving tourists and visitors a way in and residents a way to jobs outside of the city. Furthermore, the project positions Lota as a landmark in the region and decreases the use of alternative carbon-burning modes of transportation.
  Barcalota: As a ferry service utilizing the city’s coastline, this project can serve as a source of transportation, a way to increase connectivity and a tourist attraction. Implementation costs are kept down since the project relies on existing fishing infrastructure.
Biciclota: This project consists of a bike-share program that would increase public health, foster an integrated transit system and decrease reliance on petroleum-based transportation. Rental station will be positioned in strategic locations around the city and attractions and new infrastructure will be developed to build bicycle lanes, signage and kiosks. Other financial considerations include marketing, maintenance and implementation of response teams.
Housing Innovation
Cascada: Cascada will promote tourism, offer the residents a variety of amenities and promote the use of local skills and crafts. The designs respect the natural environment of Lota by being embedded into the hillside by the coast. Since the nature of the development is primarily residential, a number of grants from Chile’s Ministry of Housing and Planning and the municipality are available to finance this project. This housing development also aims to tap into the “voluntourism” market (in which tourists volunteer to help a community while being exposed to the local culture) by hosting volunteers who can help with the construction of the residential units.
Valle Verde: Lota can capitalize on funding available from MINVU for social housing and encourage neighbourhood development and community cohesion by compelling applicants to apply in groups of 10 families or more. The project will bring more permanent housing solutions to the residents of the proposed site (which is already within the city, helping to prevent the need to develop lands outside of the urban boundary).
Costa Villa: This coastal housing design, inspired by the aesthetic of traditional wooden fishing boats will create a unique visual identity, enhance tourism, create construction jobs and has potential to attract foreign investment in Lota.
Casa Flexible: This design was created to meet the needs of the typical Lota family. Its durability, price and layout flexibility can meet the needs of many. The design is meant to be cohesive with the existing materials, techniques and context while fostering economic development and growth.
Institutional Restoration
Soccer Stadium: The development of the Soccer Stadium aims create space to host games, concerts, festivals and give the Lota Schwager soccer team a stadium so that they can return to the city. The design is accessible for locals and visitors and will increase morale, provide economic opportunities and increase community cohesion through sport, which is an important part of the Chilean culture. The stadium also includes a running track, a multi-purpose gym, rooms for fitness classes and a field that can be used for a variety of purposed including as an elevated meeting point for residents in case of natural disaster.
Theatre: Restoration of Teatro Lota will give the city a place to foster culture and host related events and activities. It will also promote tourism as well as the social and mental well being of the residents. This can be further developed if the revitalization is framed as a community arts initiative. The reopened theatre can help develop new programs according to public demand.
Church:  This restoration will go beyond the scope of religion, providing a retreat for all residents as well as cherishing one of the city’s most important and historic buildings. The spiritual nature of the design will allow it to serve as both a place of worship and a place of interaction and will serve the city as a community gathering space
Economic Prosperity
Market: This project aims to improve the aesthetic of the market and foster a sense of ownership among vendors. Enhanced streetscapes, pedestrian routes and stall designs will add vibrancy to the downtown area and improve cohesion and pride in the community. The project will create new jobs for residents, attract more consumers and tourists for business owners and improve waste management, hygiene and restore deteriorating infrastructure.
Downtown Revitalization: The revitalization of Lota Bajo focuses on the market-based development to spur economic growth and increase the value of downtown real estate. Creating connections between connectivity between Lota Alto and Loto Bajo increases accessibility to downtown and makes it a more thriving and resilient place.
Centre for Social Innovation: The Centre for Social Innovation will serve as an incubation space for community organizations, business partners and educational institutions to come together to implement products, services and programs to serve the interests of the community. It will be a combination of offices and flexible space for workshops and seminars. By bringing together collaborators from different backgrounds, Lota can create ideas to develop new economies and ideas for the future. A former miner’s union building is the proposed site for development, retaining the former murals and façade that have significance to the city.
Smartphone App: The use of technology can help people learn more about Lota’s natural beauty and history, navigate the city, and connect to places of interest. The proposed app will also give residents a means of sharing their experience of the city with others.
Hotel: The proposed hotel helps accommodate the plans for increased tourism and allows for conferences and events to be held in the city. The increased number of visitors will support the economy. It can also serve as a means of promoting the local arts and crafts by providing space for local artists to sell their work. The construction of the hotel will create jobs in the short term and its operation will create long-term jobs, increasing the level of employment in the city.
Restaurant: The proposed site will infill an abandoned manufacturing facility and create a destination on the coast that is cohesive with the natural and urban settings of its surroundings. The restaurant will promote sustainable fishing practices and sourcing and celebrate Chilean cuisine, arts and heritage. The space will also be flexible to host public gatherings as well as private events like banquets and weddings which bring in another source of revenue.
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The Institute without Boundaries is a Toronto-based studio that works towards collaborative design action and seeks to achieve social, ecological and economic innovation. To learn more click here.

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