Urban and Architectural Renovation of the Main Campus of the University of Cuenca
Javier Duran A.
Javier Durán A. Juan Pablo Carvallo O. Iván Sinchi T. Cristian Sotomayor B. Isabel Carrasco V.
Kabir Montesinos (Agronomist)
University of Cuenca
Sebastián Crespo C. Manuel Pichazaca Francisco Coronel Iván Sinchi T.
The project gives solution to a problem generated over the years at University of Cuenca, in which the location of outdoor spaces and buildings did not respond to a previous plan, but instead, was the result of daily needs and chance, causing lack of connectivity, isolation of academic units, degradation and segregation from daily activities of outdoor areas. Besides, there were few pedestrian paths and large spaces were destined to private vehicles. The project aimed to transform the university campus into a permeable space that eliminated the limits with the city, in such a way that it was not only a space for students and teachers but became a place for common citizens, an urban park that connected and contributed to reinforce the concept of open city. This collective space would serve as a frontier, as a porous membrane that retains some valuable elements inside, and lets others flow through it. The project also sought to recover the concept of “campus”, a term that comes from Latin, which means “plain”. It pursued to transform hard concrete spaces (roads, sidewalks, parking) into semipermeable or permeable places where the growth of native fauna and flora was enhanced. These nature-based solutions became part of the great green corridor that accompanies the Tomebamba River. The project manages to build an open and public space, which eliminates the limits between interior and exterior spaces, where different groups interact, community life is strengthened, good living is promoted and a holistic view is enriched by sharing different ways of seeing and doing.
The University of Cuenca, an undeniable reference in the higher education in Ecuador, settles in the World Heritage city of Cuenca at an altitude of 2550 m.a.s.l. in the Andes mountains. The city is crossed by four rivers, of which, Tomebamba defines the edges of the historic city center and the modern city with a green corridor along the buildings of El Barranco, an invaluable landmark of Cuenca. The strategic location of main campus University of Cuenca next to the Tomebamba, is enhanced in the project by transforming this facility into an extension of the natural corridor, while also addressing the lack of green spaces in the city. The project also responses to the modern challenges of education and to the shift of the university policies from a model of isolated schools and programs to one of interdisciplinarity and collaboration between the different fields of knowledge. Aiming for an integrative learning, the project appeals for open and shared spaces at multiple scales and with various functions. The campus of the University becomes the common ground for the exchange of experiences and knowledge between scholars and the community to which is due, while advocating at the same for the recovery and conservation of the natural environment.
The project is approached from the understanding of the place as a whole, identifying key elements that could engage connectivity within the campus and with the city. The campus acts as an extension of the natural corridor of the Tomebamba river and El Barranco, and the built environment changes secluded spaces into facilities open to the public. Four strategic actions are proposed: to renovate and connect the built environment, to recover and promote green areas, to establish inclusive accesses and pathways and to generate collective spaces. The project is ordered by two main axis. The first one, with orientation north-south, includes a system of pedestrian paths accompanied by green and open spaces, and places of leisure and recreation where diverse urban furniture is installed. Direct pedestrian routes are established through the elimination of barriers and reorganizing the vehicular circulation. The second axis, with orientation east-west, allocates three main built interventions, located strategically within the campus to become focal points that activate the north-south pathways. These built interventions include the Renovation of the Theatre Carlos Cueva Tamariz, the construction of the lecture hall for the School of Psychology and the rehabilitation of the former School and Community of the Dominican Mothers. New green spaces are claimed by replacing parking lots and rigid pavements with vegetation, pedestrian paths and more permeable floors. The re-introduction of around 100 native species of trees and herbaceous plants regenerates the landscape of the campus, beneficing a diverse fauna and flora, while becoming a reference for an architecture-nature symbiosis.