marcos coronel is a venezuelan architect, urban policy strategist and co-founder of pico colectivo. in the following essay – ‘pursuing a challenging remedy to cities’ -coronel explores the opportunity for a positive paradigm shift within urban environments. in the wake of COVID-19, the architect advocates not for the world to return to ‘normal’, but for cities to be better designed for public heath and any future pandemic.
‘pursuing a challenging remedy to cities’ – the city as we know it is collapsing and is unable to pose new alternatives of life. the virus is forcing us to assimilate the buildings that comprise the city, and the systems that had conceived each city for itself. basic activities are separated by kilometers of distance between streets and roads. naves and galleries, as enclosed and artificially acclimatised envelopes do not allow crowds anymore, hence are unvisitable. infra-human capsules stacked on top of each other on towers that do not contemplate open spaces, common areas, nor nature; where there is practically no human contact with the outdoors, will become increasingly dysfunctional over time.
a balcony traverses the façade of a hermetic building in caracas, marcos coronel (pico pico)
image © josé alberto bastidas
the pandemic threatens to irreversibly harm the social bridges and relationships that subsist with difficulty, and at the same time, paradoxically, poses a latent opportunity to remedy our cities. however, not through a topical and superficial treatment that pretends to recycle models to return to the same point in which we were before, but through a drastic change forward. one that leads us to think on a transformation beyond what is proven, implementing in-depth therapeutic interventions, experimenting with a new re-qualification of existing structures, along with propagation of new physical entities, new territories and new habitable organisms.
a security module controls the entry and exit into a community in caracas, atelier caracas (julio kowalenko and rodrigo armas)
image © saúl yuncoxar
a paradigm shift of the cities is imminent. the new circumstances rule other spaces where different networks will find to realise in outbreaks of cohesion and places of exchange to inhabit in a manner without precedents. other laws and prescriptions of architecture will allow a reconfiguration of the city without dogmatism or biases, which cannot ignore the magnitude of the diagnosed problem.
a structure interacts with the abandoned guaire river and the highway, rodrigo marín, ricardo sanz, alba izaguirre and marx avendaño (ciudad reactiva)
image © rodrigo marín
a long time ago cities had become inefficient organisms prone to suffer from social segregation, as well as toxic diseases. cities would no longer be fragmented territories, nor ultra dependent, as sterile islands supplied by its outskirts. thus in these might proliferate the rest of vital functions that themselves require, adopting a resilient behavior of its own failures, but also more immune to possible threats and disruptions of external factors. nevertheless, within the settlements we have organized as societies, it is possible to allocate ports for those future atmospheres. elements that are already present as small filaments and cells in the context of places we are already residing. communities and urbanization ought to be in balance with natural environments, including safe and flexible spaces that are capable to foresee, or at least to resist and overcome efficiently, aggressive and harmful conditions.
in some way, all of the cities gather this potential to exploit, where each territory presents particular symptoms that will receive targeted methods and treatments. but precisely, caracas and similar cities in latin america that are at the limit, constitute the ideal scenario to imagine a remedy. caracas is a complex and heterogeneous city that is comprised of multiple layers overlapping each other, intertwined on a single congenital structure. a chaotic and degraded territory, just as wondrous and vibrant. the city simultaneously holds sound developments, which require updates and refreshing, combined with other spaces where a flexible and unstable, intense and dynamic fabric is reproduced, demanding repairs with better endowments, services and infrastructures.
these counterpoints are in permanent contact and tension and are the breeding ground and laboratory most prone to apply structural correctives because of the threat that the virus embodies. a city that ought to reinvent itself before it phagocytises itself. the river that flows throughout must heal, to recover its stream and extend its riversides, penetrating the hermetic fabric until merging with small forests and urban farms. another system would be to reverse the ratio of built square meters to favor common public spaces. to dissolve boundaries and blend urban fabrics. transparent buildings naturally oxygenating. access to work, dwelling and elemental services, broadly interconnected. it seems the world is rushing to return to ‘normality’, eager to stop the downfall of what we have built, but the cities as we know them can no longer withstand the risk to face a harmful virus again, without first changing. – marcos coronel
essay: pursuing a challenging remedy to cities
by: marcos coronel
translation: karina domínguez
 air filter, parasite balcony. ecosystem of cultural economies. caracas, venezuela 2019.
project author: marcos coronel (pico pico)
image: josé alberto bastidas
 insta bunker. caracas, venezuela 2019.
project author: atelier caracas (julio kowalenko and rodrigo armas)
image: saúl yuncoxar
 VIP. caracas, venezuela 2019.
project author: rodrigo marín, ricardo sanz, alba izaguirre and marx avendaño (ciudad reactiva)
image: rodrigo marín
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edited by: lynne myers | designboom