doi 10.4067/S0718-83582015000100001


Landscapes in emergency: transformation, adaptation, resiliency


Osvaldo Moreno Flores 1

1 Chile. Architect, University of Chile. MSc in Landscape, Environment and City. PhD in Architecture and Urban Planning, UNLP. Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Chile. Assistant Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urban Studies, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.


The last twenty years have seen how the discourses on the city have placed the notion of sustainability as the main purpose and reason for the development of different research, studies and projects. Today, however, the concept of resiliency is drawing the attention of scholars, planners, authorities and an increasingly active and empowered civil society. This can be seen in the different official reports issued by international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and a growing number of scientific research from different disciplines focused on the issue of resiliency in cities and human settlements. Without a doubt, this edition of Revista INVI illustrates this issue.

In general terms, the concept of resiliency refers to the capacity of an organism or system to adapt itself and become flexible within the context of an extreme situation in order to surmount it2. Resilience is a term that has been recently used by the UN as a risk-reduction strategy in communities, both at cultural and material level. In this case the premise is to resist or adapt to the new situation in order to operate under acceptable conditions. Such a condition is determined by the extent to which each social system is able to organize itself and increase its ability to learn and adapt to new conditions, including the capacity to recover after a disaster event3.

The pressure exerted by sociocultural, demographic, economic and environmental forces in urban and suburban territories —especially within the Latin American context— is at the basis of this conceptual shift from sustainability to resilience. In this way the debate is not only focused on integrating social equity, ecological integrity and economic competitiveness into territorial planning processes or urban projects but also on the fact that recurring changing scenarios, crises, and socionatural4 disasters generate adaptability, resistance, and regeneration conditions that should be managed, planned, and projected at city level.

Therefore, the urban landscape —which is understood as an emergency landscape— is charged with a double meaning; on the one hand there is the emergency related to a state of alert and the immediate risk to health, life and property of an individual or a community. Under such a circumstance, urgent intervention is needed in order to act, prevent and avoid further negative effects. On the other hand there is the concept of emergency related to an emergent situation, that is understood as the rise of elements, systems and actors within a given context in which all of them provide solutions to the existing problems and demands.

The notion of landscape, understood as a common denominator for both definitions is addressed from an intermediate, hybrid and mixed position in which ecological and sociocultural aspects are blended to create a dynamic that enables understanding, interpretation and projection of the territory. Such a dynamic is in line with the complex challenges entailed by the current problems associated with the changes, crises and disasters that affect different scenarios and contexts. Likewise, it is possible to establish an integrating dialog among disciplines that have been running parallel to each other for years —even centuries.5 From a theoretical, epistemological and landscape-related perspective, environmental sciences, human sciences, arts and design are interrelated through increasingly important and synergic channels.

Even though the diverse papers offered in this issue of Revista INVI address different topics, use different case studies and their authors come from different disciplines, there is a common denominator that refers to emergency landscapes. In this sense, such a denominator is used either to explore complex adaptability and changing processes involving people in transforming territories or refer to the response patterns to problems and disasters that create the conditions for the emergence of resilience.

Firstly, the paper “Emergency Urban Landscape in Valdivia, Chile: Contributions to the Post-Disaster Planning and Urban Design Processes within a Restoration Context”, co-authored by Villagra and Felsenardt addresses the relationships between the physical and social aspects of landscape that emerge during a disaster event. This research was conducted within the context of a post-earthquake and tsunami emergency (2010). These relationships define how the different components of the urban landscape are felt and inhabited; such a description was based on categories of use associated with shelter, evacuation and different relational dimensions such as legibility and containment. This examination enables the definition of a conceptual model for the emergency urban landscape which, according to the authors, reveals the role of open spaces in cities prone to natural hazards, thus proposing strategies to contribute to their planning and urban design processes.

The following work, “Reconstruction and Resilience: The Historical Case of the City of Constitucion and the 2010 Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Site”, written by Contreras and Beltran, analyzes the problems in the reconstruction process in one of the cities worst affected by the 2010 event by focusing on the discussion on the scope of this process, the most important changes experienced by the urban structure -especially in the area between the coastline and the river- and the value of property. This research estimates that the persistency of the urban fabric and damaged housing due to different political-administrative and technical factors —including the forced relocation of certain segments of the population— promotes gentrification and the destruction of the sociocultural structure, thereby affecting the resilience of the city and the possibility to achieve effective territorial planning.

The third paper, entitled “Place-Making and Construction of Informal Settlements in Mexico”, prepared by Lombard, serves as a reflection on the influence of discursive construction on informal settlements within a marginalization context; this is a process that has tangible consequence for dwellers. This argument aims at destabilizing these marginalization-based discourses and proposes a “place-making” approach by exploring the local experiences of two popular settlements located in Xalapa which, despite reproducing and negatively affecting the dual conception of “informality”, reveal some possibilities for the reformulation of informal settlements.

The following contribution, entitled “Culture and Residential Habitat: The Case of the Mapuche People” and co-authored by Sepulveda and Vela, uses a methodological approach to characterize the “residential habitat” from a cultural perspective. To that end, a group of Mapuche families living in Padre las Casas were consulted. Despite the fact that this research corroborates the existence of a western-oriented huinca6 vision of the Mapuche worldview, the authors of this paper identified strong emotional ties among families and a close cultural connection with the inhabited territory. Such an exercise revealed a complex identity and a territorial sense of belonging that characterize and define the features of the Mapuche residential habitat. Likewise this research confirmed that the implementation of methods and techniques related to Human Sciences —particularly sociology, anthropology and ethnography— and architecture help the researcher to conduct a more thorough and detailed analysis in order to identify the culture, patterns and processes of inhabitants.

Then the paper “Microfinance and Housing for Immigrants in the USA: A Sustainable Tool”, written by Estevez, analyzes the problem of access for poor people —especially immigrants— to housing in regenerated neighborhoods. While it is true that the United States has many years of experience in issues related to the regeneration and development of deteriorated neighborhoods affected by habitability problems, current financial and housing opportunities are proving to be inaccessible for important social groups such as immigrants. According to the author of this paper the regeneration of neighborhoods through the renewal of the housing stock creates a series of benefits such as social opportunities and a decrease in the consumption of land, energy and other resources, thus promoting sustainable development and resilience in territories and communities. In this regard, the research explores the attention given to problems associated with the access to housing by providing an analysis of the key characteristics of a microfinance program for housing that was first implemented in 2000 in some of the poorest counties in Texas, along the American-Mexican border. This research may provide the basis for the formulation and implementation of similar programs in other areas.

Finally in her contribution “Emergency Housing: Reflections on the Experience of the 27F Earthquake”, Garay analyzes the serious shortcomings in terms of disaster preparedness and training within the context of the experiences of the 2010 earthquake and tsunami, the earthquake that shook northern Chile in 2014 and the great fire that affected Valparaiso in 2014. Attention is given to the statutes and regulations intended to cope with emergency situations and address the quality of housing. This paper concludes that there is no legal regime that ensures the provision of decent housing, which is a task subject to economic considerations. In this sense the author points out that ensuring the provision of quality housing, procedures aimed at coping with disasters and the establishment of proper villages and emergency camps is a task that demands a planning process as well as regulations and implementation procedures in order to avoid improvisation.

In summary, the different research papers offered in this issue provide important guidance for the analysis and evaluation of emergency landscapes. These contributions cover different scales of cases identified in territorial contexts marked by accelerated and constant changes at social, political, economic, cultural and environmental level.



2Moreno, 2012-2013.
3Kreimer, Arnold and Carlin, 2003.
4Romero, Fuentes and Smith, 2010.
5 Nogue, 2010.
6 Huinca is the term used by the Mapuche people to refer to the Spanish conquistadors.



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