Regenerating public space in Merida, Yucatán Mexico

                                                              

Regenerating public space in Merida, Yucatán Mexico

Fundación Hogares
Solution proposed by: 
: Fundacion Hogares with the sponsorship and social alliance of INFONAVIT (The National Housing Fund Institute for Workers), with the support of the Municipal Government of Merida Yucatán
In a Nutshell: 
Poligono 108 is a neighborhood located in the western part of the city of Merida Yucatan with approximately 2500 homes. The project promoted by Fundacion Hogares included the intervention of 3,730 sq/m of public space that benefited 8,432 residents. The key to the success of this project was the community engagement strategy.
Where and When: 
Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico in 2015. Time of execution 6 months
Challenges: 
The public spaces of the southern part of the neighborhood of Poligono 108 in Merida Yucatan were found to be in very bad conditions through a diagnose made to the area. The lack of light made this area a very insecure place for the residents. The physical conditions of the common areas presented wide deterioration, the vegetation had no maintenance there was a lack of urban furniture and there were no accessibility elements. Particularly this region in Mexico is very hot, therefore the need of vegetation to produce shade is prior in these projects to guarantee their use by the community. The project therefore was oriented to improve community areas and sidewalks
Innovation: 
The most innovative component of this project was the process used for community engagement; a process that Fundacion Hogares has developed and applies to all their urban renewal projects. This process includes workshops, visits and overall activities that give confidence to the neighbors and builds trust in the assigned team. Fundacion Hogares has also developed an Index of neighborhood social cohesion that seeks to measure four components interpersonal trust, sense of belonging, social identity, and participatory behavior before and after the project has been done. With the Index the interventions are evaluated and monitored through time to see the level of success of the proposed design and the community’s acceptance.
Concept: 
The project was designed by Ludens architecture studio, hired by Fundacion Hogares whom identified the opportunity areas of the project and proposed to include two plazas and 6 sidewalks which would be key elements to promote the further intervention of the whole sidewalk network in the neighborhood and their public spaces. Due to the climate conditions of the region, the shading of spaces was prior in this project and this was achieved with the inclusion of concrete umbrellas with different porosities that offered an attractive gave of lights and shades through the open space.
Description: 
For the definition of the project Fundacion Hogares organized workshops with the neighbors that lived near the intervention area since they were the most interested and proactive. These workshops helped identify the requirements and desires of the community as well as the main problems they face within their neighborhood to seek for solutions. The first phase of the project was the intervention of Plaza Torres Mesías with 2,660 m2 of surface that included a sports field and a children’s ludic area with artificial grass to minimize maintenance. A modulated scheme was used to introduce urban furniture, plant-holders, pavements and shade umbrellas. The inclusion of concrete seats throughout the project is a particularity due to the design used which is the “you and me chairs” very common in this city. The pavements, furniture, lightening and shade umbrellas were also included throughout the pathways that connect the plaza and vegetation of low maintenance was include as well. The light disposition was a key element of the project to promote the use of these spaces at night, which is when most people take advantage of these spaces
Impacts: 
8,432 people were benefited with this project. The intervention included the following: 3,730 m2 of renewed surface; 791m2 of paint, 1,750m2 of pavements, 514 m2 of shaded areas, 1533 m2 of vegetation, 52 new lights, 120 pieces of new urban furniture. The most important impact was the social cohesion achieved, the sense of community generated after the completion of the project and the appropriation and use of the public area. Before the project was done the pathways were used only as connectors from one place to another, today the community stays in these spaces, uses the benches, rests and observes. The public areas are now alive and in use every time of the day which was achieved also due to the use of shade umbrellas. In a final survey to evaluate the results of the project the key findings indicate that the perception of security was increased in 5%, the use of the public areas increased 8% and 58% of the population agreed that the project improved significantly the public areas. On the other hand around 34% of the respondents of the survey agreed that the physical intervention improved the sense of security in public places.

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