LAII Lecture Explores Brazil Beyond the Olympics

August 20, 2013

The UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) is pleased to announce the second presentation in its Fall 2013 Lecture Series: "Rio 2014-2016: Beyond Olympic Mode" with Jorge Colón, Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture + Planning and a faculty affiliate with the LAII. The presentation will be held Tuesday September 10, 2013, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. in the LAII Conference Room. Please see the event flyer for reference.

Professor Colón currently teaches design studios and seminars that focus on research-based design methodologies within rapidly urbanizing cities and regions. His research centers on the social and economic networks, transportation systems, and infrastructure that inform urban development and public space, and places a special interest in housing patterns within the Global South.

This presentation will consider the nature of urban migration and rapid urbanization in Latin America, and the resulting challenges associated with inadequate infrastructure, transportation systems, and limited public space - which have all been well publicized. These conditions demonstrate a highly diverse gradient of physical conditions ranging from polished, market-driven urban products to need-based urban expansion, in-fill, and self-performed construction processes. The planning and investment of global mega-events such as the Olympics Games further intensify the rates of investment and change, and bring to question the costs and benefits of urban centers during tourist-oriented "games-mode" versus the "legacy-mode" inherited by local communities.

As Latin American cities continue to address urban slum conditions, improve public transportation systems, and prepare to host growing populations, the combinations of forces informing urban development will become more complex, making the skill sets of the traditional design disciplines immensely relevant. However, the familiar marginalization of these disciplines - framed as 'architect', 'planner', or 'engineer' - are grossly inadequate, and the silos in which they operate are narrow. Contemporary urban conditions signify a need for reorientation of perspective, and a realignment of action that blurs conventional design and research roles - shifting away from product-oriented deliverables to the design of responsive processes that illuminate and orchestrate activity across infrastructures and cultural geographies.

New research, terminologies, and teaching pedagogy must focus on the nature of design processes and action, rather than the specific product or media (i.e. architecture, landscape). Design actors must be embedded within the physical and social fabrics in which they perform. In contrast to inter-disciplinary views which operate within the gaps of these given roles, and which attempt to reconcile individual inadequacies, this paper will argue that the urban conditions found in Latin America require trans-disciplinary lenses that efficiently move across these boundaries - unburdened by the limitations of conventional disciplinary identities.

The presentation will offer current preparations for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil as demonstration projects of familiar decision-making processes addressing urban conditions, within the urgent timetables and politics associated with these mega-events. Recently, urban centers in Brazil have experienced massive demonstrations protesting planning and government investment that favors the immediate game-mode over the long-term legacy of these events. Residents have expressed their frustration with the public funding of stadiums and transportation systems that cater to the anticipated influx (and departure) of tourists, rather than long-term investment in education, health care, and infrastructure within urban slums.

The immediate convergence of these two mega-events in Brazil creates a laboratory of accelerated change - offering an opportunity to study the changing roles of actors within contemporary Latin American urban conditions. Further, the shortcomings of current planning efforts and the social inequities that will result from these projects will further demonstrate the need for disciplinary reorientation in order to more effectively view and shape contemporary urban conditions.