Xela Comes 2nd in Urban Design Competition

by Julio Urizar

The recent Urban Lab 2015 was the first university competition organized by the Interamerican Development Bank through their Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative. The competition required the development of an integrated urban design plan that would be transformative and sustainable for the neighbourhood of Curundú in Panama City.

The Urban Lab is a three phase competition that happens over a 6 month period. In the first phase, teams present an initial proposal. This year, 176 teams from 65 universities from all over Latin America sent proposals. Of these proposals, 30 were selected to go on to the semifinals. Three Guatemalan teams qualified, two from Xela and one from Guatemala City. From the semifinalists, three projects were selected to participate in the third phase: “Curundú: Sustainable City Model” from Huancayo, Peru; “Emerging Curundú” from Panama City; and “Connected Curundú” from Xela.

Judges commented that Connected Curundú was selected amongst the three finalists because it proposed to connect Curundú internally through strengthening capacity, recreation and innovation. The judge’s also said that the Xela team’s vision was a innovative strategy to connect the neighbourhood to external networks, both physical and social, to integrate and revitalise the image and social dynamic of Curundú.

The competition organizers singled out the proposal from Xela as stimulating the productivity and general value of Curundú from its regular use to a city of the 21st century. Their multidisciplinary approach to project design, implementation and management allowed Connect Curundú to come up with an integrated solution for Curundú. The proposal took into account the history and culture of Curundú to leverage these existing activities into social, economic and environmental capacities.

On the 28th of September, representatives from the three remaining teams travelled to Washington D.C. to present their project proposals before a panel of international judges at the Interamerican Development Bank’ headquarters. After the judges voted in private, the results were released and Xela came in second place by a single vote. The team from Panama took first place.

Connect Curundú has significant value for Xela and for Guatemala in general. Urban design work is based on the desire to improve the quality of life in Latin American cities through multidisciplinary collaborations and proposals. The team from Xela consists of Architect and Urban Designer Luis Gernando Castillo Castillo (university tutor) and architecture students: Rafael Flores de León, Victoria Ixchell Tiu Grijalva, Jairo González, Diana Martínez Sac, Ligia Amézquita, as well as philosophy student Julio Mazariegos.

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