Caracas Think Tank

Group – Caracas, Venezuela

1993 onwards

www.u-tt.com

Caracas Think Tank is an NGO for urban cultural research established in 1993 by Alfredo Brillembourg and later joined by Hubert Klumpner. It is supported and partly funded by the Urban Think Tank (UTT), which consists of architects, civil engineers, environmental planners and communication specialists engaged in city policies and the discussion of controversial issues of city development in Venezuela. UTT and the Caracas Think Tank received widespread international recognition between 2002 and 2004 for the research project 'Caracas Case' (funded by the Federal German Government through the Federal Cultural Foundation) and published as Informal City: Caracas Case.

'Caracas Case' investigated the 'deep-rooted changes of urban realities, which are visible in the explosive growth of mega cities' with the help of invited consultants from 15 countries who engaged in the visioning of new, pioneering and alternative design ideas for the city of Caracas. This was set up in response to the incapacity of traditional planning methods to address the needs of the city's inhabitants. The book examines Caracas as well as other Latin American cities in terms of their 'barrios', 'shantytowns', or 'slums'. It assesses their validity as an architectural phenomenon in their own right and discusses these areas in terms of their own socio-economic environment. In this it differs from the official planning strategies of viewing these areas as illegal and also from the perspective of NGOs and development agencies, who view them as places for the disenfranchised. In this context it asks whether state-sponsored macro strategies might have a larger impact than micro-enterprise, market-based, small-scale solutions, and investigates which approach leads to greater socio-spatial inequalities.The publication aims to be 'handbook of informal urban and cultural practice' and makes the case for the application of the research to other Latin American as well as African and Asian cities.

Caracas Think Tank's approach does not seek to completely rebuild and replace the informal city, but instead proposes an 'urban acupuncture' consisting of small projects such as composting toilets, public spaces and new routes inserted into the existing fabric. In their economic approach they expand the role of the architect, initially raising their own money to start a project, and later with enough interest, supplementing it with governmental funding. Here the architect's agency is that of an entrepreneur requiring a similar approach of taking initiative but also of taking risk.

Key Projects

Caracas Case

Other Work

Brillembourg, Alfredo, Kristin Feireiss, and Hubert Klumpner, eds., Informal City: Caracas Case (Munich: Prestel, 2005).

Brillembourg, Alfredo, and John Frankfurt, 'Beyond the Barrio', Dwell, 5 (2005).

Brillembourg, Alfredo, and Hubert Klumpner, '1 in 23 - A Day in the Barrio: Urban Think Tank [23 de Enero, Caracas, Venezuela]', Volume (Amsterdam, 2008).

Brillemburg, Alfredo, and Hubert Klumpner, 'On Global Cities and Global Slums: Lessons From the Informal City', Archithese, 37 (2007).

Sustainable Living Urban Model, http://www.slumlab.com/

References About

Beardsley, John, 'A Billion Slum Dwellers and Counting', Harvard Design Magazine, 2007.

Venicesuperblog, Urban Think Tank on Caracas, 2006 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXJ4HJDNbHA [accessed 15 May 2009].

Quotes

"UTT is clearly aligned with a pro-market approach to the economy, but with an emphasis on social welfare, social equity and environmental sensibility. UTT a has pledged 10% of its revenue to a non-profit NGO "Caracas Think Tank" established in 1993, to support urban cultural research. We award grants to domestic and international urban initiatives that make a difference for the Caracas urban culture."
- UTT; http://www.u-tt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=48&Itemid=38

"We seek to influence a younger generation of architects, to encourage them to develop more socially responsible ideas about their cities, to think both broadly and deeply about the integration of communities with public spaces, architecture, landscape, agriculture, and new media into a cohesive urban environment. [...] Design, we believe, should emerge from a direct response to the needs and wishes of all citizens, not excluding the underprivileged and the marginalized; it should challenge the assumption that commercialization is the essential criterion."
- Alfredo Brillembourg, Kristin Feireiss, and Hubert Klumpner, eds., Informal City - Caracas Case (Munich: Prestel, 2005), p. 105.

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