SPURS Projects

"Towards an Inclusive Urbanization: Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area, Argentina"


In 2018, SPURS embarked on a major new initiative, engaging the entire group of SPURS/Humphrey Fellows in a joint project to figure out ways to improve and better integrate a number of informal settlements into the Buenos Aires, Argentina, community. This significant endeavor was undertaken at the request of senior government officials for the Province of Buenos Aires, who visited MIT in the spring of 2018. They asked SPURS for help implementing a new effort to upgrade multiple, typically resident-built, informal settlements and provide better links for them into urban systems through a recently created Provincial Urban Integration Policy.

During the fall semester, seminar speakers introduced everyone to the city of Buenos Aires, to theories of economic and urban development in the developing world, and to real-world projects to improve public space, safety, and design. The fall seminar also addressed issues in land regularization and titling, as well as organizational design and urbanization management. Speakers from public agencies, NGOs, academia, and elsewhere provided the students with multiple perspectives on urban issues. They included Nora Libertun and Francisca Rojas from the International Development Bank, both with extensive experience working in Buenos Aires; Jota Samper from the University of Colorado at Boulder, who has been engaged with community-based efforts to improve security and well-being for residents of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Anirudh Krisha, professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, who presented his analysis of what drives upward mobility among poor residents of developing countries.

During late January 2019, both Fellows and graduate students traveled to Buenos Aires for a week along with two faculty members, Sanyal and Louise Elving, a DUSP lecturer with substantial experience in affordable housing and community development. The trip to Buenos Aires clarified the issues and theoretical models studied during the fall semester by providing the real local context of the diverse settlements. OPISU arranged multiple visits for MIT team members, who repeatedly visited the three target communities. OPISU staff members explained the evolution of the neighborhoods and their geographic, economic, and political relationships with the surrounding area; they also provided introductions. MIT team members spoke with leaders in neighborhood-based community centers and local waste-sorting cooperatives to learn their goals for the area and how they seek to improve residents’ lives. The team also met with representatives from large public organizations that impact the community, notably the regional waste management company Ecological Coordination Metropolitan Area State Society (CEAMSE), which operates a major landfill adjacent to the target neighborhoods, and Comite de Cuenca del Rio Reconquista (COMIREC), a government agency charged with remediating the heavily polluted Rio Reconquista River nearby. CEAMSE has a significant impact on the local neighborhoods because many residents make their living scavenging on its landfill, and it has underlying ownership interests in much of the land in the neighborhoods. Elsewhere in Buenos Aires, the MIT group visited Barrio 31, an older informal neighborhood near the commercial heart of Buenos Aires that has benefited substantially during the past decade from targeted public investments in housing, safety, infrastructure, and job training—demonstrating the possible opportunities for integrating and upgrading other informal communities.

The year-long program culminated on May 6, 2019, with a daylong symposium. At this event, seminar participants presented their work for review by OPISU staff and others from Buenos Aires, representatives from the Inter-American Development Bank and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and faculty from MIT and other universities. With the benefit of input from these stakeholders, a final report will be prepared during the summer 2019 for submission to OPISU that will document the research undertaken throughout the year, including examples of relevant projects elsewhere in the developing world. (For more about the Buenos Aires Project, please check the Newsletter Issue No. 65.) For a copy of the report, you can email spurs-program@mit.edu.

Metro Lab - IAP Course 2017 - January 9-20


The Metro Lab Initiative is offering a two-week IAP session, sponsored by the MIT-SUTD Collaboration. The session has two modules, which may be taken together or separately. Each module offers classes in the morning and workshops as well as conferences in the afternoon. In the first module, “Bridging the metro gaps”, metropolitan challenges and their potential solutions will be addressed and developed for different sectors and problems. The second module, “The shaping of a new metropolitan discipline” will focus on how different disciplines and their methods can be applied. A pin-up session open to the MIT and Harvard communities will be developed the last day of each course and guest speakers will hold open conferences. Module one: “Bridging the metro gaps” Monday, January 9th to Friday, January 13th Module two: “The shaping of a new metropolitan discipline” Monday, January 16th to Friday, January 20th Further information contact: Gabriel Lanfranchi, SPURS Fellow 2015 and Metro Lab co-director gl_urban@mit.eduand David Gomez-Alvarez SPURS Fellow 2017 and Metro Lab co-director gomezalv@mit.edu https://dusp.mit.edu/idg/project/metro-lab (for both modules)

SPURS-MCP Collaborative Project


“Open Metropolis: Monitoring Metropolitan Latin American Cities” by: David Gomez-Alvarez, SPURS Fellow and Ricardo Martinez-Campos Master in City Planning Proposal Summary Understanding the complexities of measuring social, urban and economic development goals within Latin American cities, and acknowledging the lack of initiatives that specifically target metropolis as a measurable aspect at a regional scale, the current project proposal aims to develop an indicators matrix to 1) establish a framework to better understand performance and development dynamics within Latin American metropolitan areas and 2) to trigger a global discussion around the importance of these areas in an open-data digital platform. On achieving these goals, the project will account for what has been previously done in the field on attempts to measure cities’ development and performance across the globe; build over it to consolidate the research framework for the matrix indicators; and develop the digital platform to host our findings, metrics and discussions. This platform is envisioned as an open source for governments, academic institutions, NGO’s to help them have a better understanding of the “metropolitanization” phenomenon and how to plan to achieve better cities and societies. The foundation of the project aligns to the core values of MIT and DUSP to open knowledge for all citizens across the globe to build open cities.