Responsible Villages: the governance of the territory and the landscape as a commons

The School of Architecture of the Universidad Latina, together with the School of Public Relations and the School of Biology, are proposing a pilot project that began on May 2019, which aims to work on “Villages and the Territory as a Commons”.

For the first time, research and extension will be carried out jointly at the level of the Creative Campus Faculty, to create a territorial improvement plan for the “Zona de Los Santos”, a region known for the international quality of its coffee.

The “Zone of Saints” is made up of the cantons of Dota, León Cortés, and Tarrazú. Initially, the project will work in the central districts. Specifically, this year the pilot focused on the villages of Dota and Tarrazú.

The project seeks to work with stakeholders from different communities such as the informal trade, rural tourism, and environment sectors. An initial direct relationship is established with 35 people from these different sectors, to provide training workshops on the governance of commons, as well as Fair Trade. In the medium term, this will generate chain effects, achieving many more indirect beneficiaries in the villages. The project is being carried out in parallel with the Environmental and Cultural Management Units of the Municipalities of Dota, Tarrazú, and León Cortés, among other actors involved.

One of the scopes sought by the Municipalities of the geographic area “de Los Santos”, together with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute and the Ministry of Culture, is the identification and visibility of the territory’s identity; both towards the internal part of it, to articulate different initiatives, and towards the external one, where it is tried to establish a clear line of what type of tourism is to be promoted. This, both nationally and internationally. For the School of Architecture this poses an architectural and urban challenge to establish lines of work that maintain or rescue the identity of the place, from the cultural heritage reflected in the older constructions, to the relationship with the new – and inevitable – “styles” exogenous architectural features that “development” brings to the territory.

This project proposes the identification of different variables and indicators for the development of the rural territory, which at the architectural level allow elaborating a Master Plan of the central districts of the cantons of Dota, Tarrazú, and León Cortés, while at the level of Public Relations generate a proposal of territorial marketing.

The project will advance the pilot plan in stages, following some guidelines of the LabGov protocol:

  1. Diagnosis: A previous diagnostic phase has been carried out to detect the community groups with which it will work.
  2. Prototype: On the part of the School of Architecture, in this phase, the design and construction of three modular interventions will be carried out, which will be exposing results of the diagnostic and research phases. The School of Public Relations will support micro and small enterprises, especially family management, to formalize the image of the company and the strategic positioning of the product.
  3. Master Plan: Once the diagnostic and Prototype phases with the communities are underway, a Master Plan will be established for the central districts of the Cantons of the Los Santos Zone with the support of local governments. Some architectural and urban-landscape design interventions will be established to be developed employing preliminary projects.
  4. Community Workshops: A series of community workshops and training will be carried out to monitor the project, focusing on the identification of more problems, as well as for training on issues related to the management of common goods, the Social Solidarity Economy, and the landscape as heritage.

The project is currently in the prototyping stage, which will conclude later this year. From next year, the project will be consolidated through the collaboration of more courses of the career, graduation projects and collaboration with the School of Biology will be included in everything that concerns the survey and management of endemic species of these landscapes, especially with a regenerative approach.

We believe that the contribution that a country like Costa Rica can give to the approach of the territory as a common good can be very valuable to counteract the disastrous effects of a poorly conceived human “development”. The villages, as well as the cities in their greater scale, can and must be catalysts of good management of the resources and to enhance the commons with correct and wise community governance.