Ecologically reconceiving Concepcion, Concepcion, Chile
Symbiosis: Sustainable Design + Consulting and BuroHappold Engineering

This project offers a framework and inspiration for creating sustainable city paradigms that enable people and nature to thrive, through reducing the dominance of automobiles. Cars push people and nature away from each other and out of cities. They take the life out of cities. By designing streets to be an asset to communities and nature, streets will help make dense communities more desirable and valuable, which can reduce urban sprawl and generate diverse impacts.
 
Cities throughout the world are growing rapidly, often in biodiversity hotspots. Urban sprawl is one of the largest drivers of ecosystem destruction and biodiversity loss, especially in developing countries. Concepcion, Chile has been identified by scientists as a prime biodiversity hotspot. Concepcion’s urban morphology is dominated by the car. 
 
The transition of Avenida Los Carrera, from a 6-lane roadway bordered by primarily low density and degraded developments, into a socially vibrant ecological boulevard, can be a driver of sustainable community development.
 
The road and adjacent buildings are reconceived as a 3-D public park. The ground level is accessible to bikers and pedestrians, while an elevated level increases the quantity of occupants that can enjoy the parkspace. The train station is evolved into a multi-modal transit hub. A pedestrian bridge integrated gondola provides rapid access to boulevard neighborhoods and terminates at a sustainable forestry district, while offering the experience of floating through the urban nature park.
 
The east edge of Avenida Los Carrera is bordered by sports stadiums, a natural history museum, and suburban sprawl that is increasingly encroaching into the Nonguen National Forest Reserve. The provision of high quality dense affordable housing around the ecological boulevard can attract Nonguen suburb residents downtown. The vacated suburb can become a dense sustainable forestry district that takes advantage of local assets that help generate a thriving local economy. The majority of the area can be reforested, while the periphery can house the existing university, a sustainable wood research and development hub and manufacturing industry, dense housing, a forest wellness center, and ecotourism activities. This district will create an effective urban boundary to future sprawl, by making nature an indispensable resource.
 
Urban greenhouses, park integrated agriculture, and a food marketplace in the meadow, contribute to the local economy. By increasing density, thermal and electrical energy can be provided by a river sourced ambient energy system, heat pumps, and solar panels. This will reduce local air pollution, by eliminating residents’ wood burning for heat. Biome boulevard stormwater and drinking water storage tanks reduce water consumption, increase the resilience of the municipal water systems, and reduce runoff that is causing eutrophication. The tanks function as vertical circulation, interconnecting the different pedestrian levels of the boulevard. They provide natural stimuli and natural analogue surfaces for local mobile species and vegetation to inhabit.
 
This case study demonstrates that the reconception of streets as community space can be an effective driver for generating truly sustainable communities throughout the world, which benefit the community and natural environment in ways that would not be otherwise attainable.
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