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

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

A Master Plan for the Central Districts of Los Santos

The Universidad Latina’s School of Architecture, the School of Public Relations, and the School of Biology have launched a pilot project in May 2019 to investigate “Villages and the Territory as a Commons”.

This marks the first time that research and extension activities are conducted collaboratively by faculty members of the Creative Campus. The goal is to create an improvement plan for “Zona de Los Santos”, renowned for its high-quality coffee. The “Zone of Saints” comprises Dota, León Cortés, and Tarrazú cantons. Initially, this project will focus on the central districts, particularly Dota and Tarrazú villages.

Diagnosis and Prototype Stages to Support Local Communities

The project is engaging stakeholders from various communities such as informal trade, rural tourism, and environment sectors. An initial direct relationship has been established with 35 people from these different sectors, providing them with workshops on commons governance and Fair Trade. In the long run, this will create chain effects and benefit many more of those living in villages indirectly. The project is also being conducted alongside the Environmental and Cultural Management Units of the Municipalities of Dota, Tarrazú, and León Cortés, among other involved actors.

Establishing a Sustainable Landscape as Heritage

The Municipalities of the geographic area “de Los Santos”, together with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute and the Ministry of Culture, seek to identify and make visible their territory’s identity—both internally to articulate different initiatives and externally to establish a clear line for what type of tourism should be promoted nationally and internationally. This poses an architectural and urban challenge for the School of Architecture: establishing lines of work that maintain or rescue the place’s identity, from its cultural heritage reflected in older constructions to its relationship with new—and inevitable—”styles” exogenous architectural features brought by development.

This project proposes identifying variables and indicators for developing rural territory. At the architectural level, these would allow creating a Master Plan of the central districts of Dota, Tarrazú, and León Cortés. At the Public Relations level, it could generate a proposal for territorial marketing.

Collaboration with the School of Biology to Manage Endemic Species

The project will progress in stages, following LabGov’s protocol guidelines:

  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.

Enhancing Commons Through Community Governance

The project is currently in its prototyping stage and will finish by the end of this year. From next year, more courses from the career, graduation projects, and collaboration with the School of Biology will be included to survey and manage endemic species of these landscapes, especially with a regenerative approach. We believe Costa Rica can contribute greatly to an approach that views territory as a common good to counteract the negative impacts of misguided human “development”. Villages and cities can act as catalysts for proper resource management and enhance their commons through wise community governance.