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The Meeting Place: Plaza Jorge Somaca, Chapellín by Enlace Arquitectura

The Meeting Place: Plaza Jorge Somaca, Chapellín by Enlace Arquitectura

Courtesy of Enlace Arquitectura

This project is featured in 2: “Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas.” The issue takes its name from a project led by the Office for Urbanizationation at Harvard GSD. It explores the potentials for landscape as a medium of urban intervention in the specific social, cultural, economic, and ecological contexts of Latin American cities. The issue will be available very soon. Sign-up to our newsletter to be the first to know!

Working with the community of an informal settlement in Venezuela, Enlace Arquitectura restored a node for the social life of the community that was critically deteriorated. Built in 2018, Plaza Jorge Somaca reactivated the neighborhood providing pedestrians with a meeting point for all kinds of social practices. 

Chapellín is an informal settlement in the municipality of Libertador, Caracas whose community has existed for eighty years. Nestled between the neighborhoods of La Florida and Caracas Country Club, it developed along the Chapellín creek over the course of years and is a dense and well-consolidated community. Neighborhood associations such as the Asociación de Jóvenes Unidos (AJU) have become important institutions and references for the community. They have promoted the participation of children in sports, most notably baseball, producing a long line of baseball players that have even been a part of American Big Leagues, including ball player Andrés Galarraga.  

The not-for-profit organization, Caracas MiConvive has been working with the community for several years, funding and organizing a soup kitchen for children at the Don Bosco School. They asked Enlace Arquitectura to join them in the construction of a public space project funded by the Swiss Embassy in Venezuela. Work with the community began in June 2018, through neighborhood assemblies to understanding and deciding where they would like to see a public space transformation and determining the types of activities they would like to promote. A focal space along the main barrio road was chosen, which had a one-meter level change along the middle, making the space inappropriate for ball games and uncomfortable for larger gatherings and processions. The pavement was in poor condition and sewage water filtrations under the surface threatened to deteriorate it even further over time.  

The project removed the existing, decayed pavement, leveled the space to a single surface, and created a new pavement pattern made of different concrete finishes. Steps and ramps mitigate the level changes and double as bleachers for people to sit on as they watch children play. Planters were built in corners of the plaza to incorporate some vegetation into the site. Children from a nearby school planted beans and medicinal species and are responsible for watering and maintaining them. 

Plaza Jorge Somaca was named after a long-time Chapellín neighbor who was the coordinator of the AJU association and a very important advocate and supporter of the project. Sadly, he passed away before the plaza was inaugurated, and in his memory, the space was given his name. It is a heavily used place on a daily basis, where children play basketball and caimaneras a simplified version of baseball that uses a stick for a bat and bottle caps for a ball. A hotdog cart and small kiosk are testimonies of its daily pedestrian traffic. Festivities, religious celebrations, and concerts often take place in the plaza.  

LOCATION: Chapellín, La Florida, Libertador Municipality – Caracas, Venezuela / DATE: 2018  / SITE AREA: 258 sqm  / STATUS: Built / CLIENT: Community of Chapellín / DESIGN TEAM: Enlace Arquitectura, Elisa Silva, Miguel Salas, Eduardo Mouhtar, Sergio Dos Santos, Jeniree Calderon, Carol Arellano, architects / COLLABORATORS: Elisa Silva, Miguel Salas, Eduardo Mouhtar, Sergio Dos Santos, Jeniree Calderon, Carol Arellano, Roberto Patiño, Giorgina Cumarín, Oriana Medina, Jorge Somaca, Daniel Torrealba and Ruben Castellano / CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT:  Daniel Torrealba and Ruben Castellano / PHOTOS: Enlace Arquitectura 

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