Read the article I wrote for the Architect's Newspaper on the Exhibit/Event ReThink San Diego

Photo: John Bahu
Occidente Nuevo: Recycled Tijuana

No se pierdan esta exposición de los fotógrafos Laura Migliorino y Anthony Marchetti
de las viviendas que literalmente cruzaron la frontera de San Diego a Tijuana 

Habra una mesa de dialogo con Michael Bell, Columbia University, Larry Herzog SDSU y Ted Smith Woodbury University. Modera Rene Peralta

23 de Octubre 6:30pm
Woodbury University San Diego
entrada libre


Re-Assembling Tijuana

Friday, October 16, 2015 - 8:00pm

West Hollywood Public Library, Community Room
CRITICAL STUDIES: In the beginning, Tijuana was a city physically and historically shaped by paradoxes from both the north and the south. Toward the end of the 20th century, it was recognized as the mixing chamber for hybrid cultures within a dialectic border landscape. Over the past decade, after years of violence and cartel hegemony, there has been a resurgence in the Tijuana region: a re-assembling of its identity through critical and self-referential cultural praxis in film, theory and architecture. The panel “Re-assembling Tijuana” will be led by Rene Peralta, architect and urbanist, and associate professor at Woodbury University in San Diego, and will feature three other guests: Adriana Trujillo and José Inerzia, of the media collective POLEN; and cultural theorist Josh Kun. 
Rene Peralta (Tijuana, Mexico): Educated at the New School of Architecture in San Diego and at the Architectural Association in London, England, Rene is Director of the Landscape + Urbanism Master of Design program at Woodbury University School of Architecture in San Diego, and Lecturer in the Department Urban Studies and Planning at UCSD. He publishes widely on the social and cultural forms developing along the border between the United States and Mexico, specifically between Tijuana and San Diego.  His architecture and research projects concentrate on urban design in contested global territories. 
Polen is the collaborative team of Adriiana Trujillo and Jose Inerzia. It produces media projects about the intersection between ethnographic film and experimental video. Its work has been shown in the US, Mexico, Argentina, China, Australia and India.  
Adriiana Trujillo (Tijuana, Mexico) holds a master's degree in Creative Documentary from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Her work has been included in several film and art festivals, galleries and TV channels around the world. Currently she is Artistic Director of BorDocs Documentary Forum.
José Inerzia (Zaragoza, Spain) is the producer of Skin Destination(2012) and Felix: Self-fictions of a Smuggler (2011), besides live-visual projects Juan Soldado Suite, Antropotrip and the video installation The Arcades Media Project. Since 2008, José is the executive director of BorDocs Documentary Forum, besides the programmer of the Border Film Week 2014 for the University of San Diego and co-director of Non.Format, a platform for contemporary film and video art.  
Josh Kun is a professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at USC. He is the author of Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (UC Press), which won a 2006 American Book Award, and two books based on the special collections of the Los Angeles Public Library: Songs in the Key of Los Angeles (2013, Angel City Press) and To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of the Modern City (2015, Angel City Press). He is currently completing two books about music and the US-Mexico border.


Maquilapolis @ Landscape + Urbanism Graduate Program, Woodbury University San Diego.

Our 2014 Graduate class research included the potential of a resurgence of the industrial city. With Tijuana. Mexico as our test ground we had the opportunity to visit its manufacturing parks and the innovative 3D Robotics Drone manufacturing facility. 

L+U Grads with professors Rene Peralta (Director of L+U) Benjamin Bratton (UCSD) and Erin Ota (Woodbury)


Our Border/Bi-National Region: 
The Resurgence of Tijuana

                                    image: Rene Peralta

The bi-national future of the Tijuana-San Diego cross-border region has been on the radar screens of citizens and public officials for several decades.  Unfortunately, the combined impacts of post 9/11 Homeland Security, concerns about drug smuggling, and a global recession have slowed down cross-border planning projects for nearly a decade. Now, over the last five years, the pendulum has swung back.  San Diego and Tijuana are ready to plan and build an infrastructure that embraces our cross border futures.

This breakfast dialogue will introduce San Diegans to some emerging urban development projects and activities that define Tijuana’s economic and cultural resurgence over the past half decade.


Emma Cruz and Miguel Marshall, Co-founders of HUB STN, a bi-national technology and collaborative work space in downtown Tijuana.

Illya Haro, Independent Art Curator in Tijuana Mexico, will address the emerging downtown Tijuana arts scene.

Rene Peralta, Director of the Master of Science in Architecture Program at Woodbury University in San Diego will present an ecological revitalization plan for the River Zone of Tijuana.

Mario C. López, President/CEO, The Border Group LLC., will highlight areas of Tijuana's revitalization and the importance of cross border cooperation. 

Dr. Lawrence Herzog, SDSU Professor of City Planning

When Thursday, September 24, 20157:00 AM - 9:00 AM (PDT)
Location Balboa Park ~ The Prado Restaurant ~The Loggia Room
More info: Click Here
Prado Restaurant ~The Loggia Room


Hi all,

This blog is back with my latest text on PREVI in Peru
This essay was written for the online magazine ACTA. Click here

PREVI_45 years of Resiliency

From Sustainable to Resilient Cities

The urban, which is indifferent to each difference it contains, often seems to be as indifferent as nature, but with a cruelty all its own.”
Henri Lefebvre in The Urban Revolution

In contemporary urbanism the concept of resiliency was adopted from the natural sciences, where it postulates how ecosystems can withstand events of crisis and are able to adapt in those critical moments that can lead to an outcome of extinction or survival. The term has been widely used in Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Architecture academia as the new contract with the contemporary city.

The prolific scientific monitoring of climate change and recent cataclysms such as Hurricanes Katrina in New Orleans, Sandy in New York or the current drought in California has put an emphasis on hydrological planning, water management and other environmental concerns and their impacts on our built environment. These factors have urgently produced trans-disciplinary urban studies where ecology, geography, and the environmental sciences are fusing with urban and landscape design.

The recent issue of the international journal of landscape architecture and urban design TOPOS dedicated its June 2015 issue to the theme of Resilient Cities and Landscapes, where Dianne E. Davis, Professor of planning at the Harvard GSD writes:

“Resilience is now the watchword of our times. It is promoted as the rationale for a new and expanding repertoire of tools that will guide us to a secure urban and global future. But resiliency is a tricky word, veering into the ideological.”

Resilient space is one of crisis, one of immediacy and sometimes one re-constructed by catastrophe. Today, the challenge of the resilient city is not solely to attaining symbiotic relationship with nature, but one of adaptation and optimization to ecological, economical and global forces. Recently, the resilient city has transcended the notion of the sustainable city.


“PREVI, a grand competition promoted by the Peruvian government and the United Nations, of universal importance”
                                                            President Arq.Fernando Belaunde Terry (1968)

From 2013 to 2014, the Landscape Urbanism program at Woodbury University explored zones that demonstrated resilient acts of urbanism within the region of the Tijuana/San Diego border region. This area’s development is product of dialectical landscapes, where the developed world meets the developing one, full of contrast and examples of resiliency. And as the research expanded to Latin America the characterization of resiliency began to diversify beyond the ecological urgency presented in North America.

In 2013, as part of the second semester design studio, graduate students from the Landscape + Urbanism Program visited the city of Lima, Peru. The brief of the studio was to study and collaborate with the Lima municipality, to produce an urban design scheme for a post-industrial site adjacent to the Rimac urban river. As we surveyed the city and conversed with professors from the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria our attention shifted to a very distinct and experimental housing development along the Carretera Panamericana built in the late 60’s early 70’s -  PREVI (Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda).

In 1966, Peruvian President Fernando Belaúnde organized, along with the United Nations Development Program the experimental housing project that included the design of prefabricated and modular social housing typologies with the help of Peruvian and international architects. PREVI’s urban master plan was under the direction of British architect Peter Land along with prominent international architects such as James Stirling, Atelier 5, Christopher Alexander and Charles Correa among others. The 1500 home development included a variety of pedestrian walkways, large urban parks, schools and dedicated parking areas for residents.

President Belaúnde was an architect trained at the University of Texas and a modernist in all sense of the word including his ideas of urbanization, which had influence from the rational planning layouts encouraged by CIAM and Le Corbusier. PREVI, like many projects during this era of late modernism that intended to apply design at a large scale including design of cities and infrastructure (i.e. brutalism, metabolism etc) was part of an intent of liberal social politics to bring order and humanitarian design to a region that soon would be reshaped by political unrest.

On October 03, 1968 a coup d’état during Belaúnde’s term would change the rational and programmed path of PREVI and begin its long and resilient future of adaptation and bottom-up process of maturity.  It is important to note that the military government did not condemn the project, yet it only promoted other nationalistic (anti-imperialistic) driven forms of development. 

“Although the coup d’état of 1968 did not completely interrupt PREVI’s development, the military regime rejected this model to address the need for new low-income housing and the project of social development dissolved into organized squatter settlements and self-built housing.” (Kahatt & Crousse)

PREVI future and regulated growth (by architects) was no longer sustained by the new government and its new residents had to find “resilient” methods in order to maintain the urban form and vitality of the neighborhood. As in many regions of Latin America during the XX century, national scale projects failed the Corbusian dictum “”Architecture or Revolution” that was critical to modernism political ideology. 

Later, the onset of postmodernism critique of the modernist machine aesthetic via the introduction historical and semantic references in schools of architecture added to the abandonment of PREVI by the new generation of architects as an avant-garde proposal for housing in the Americas. A sentiment that is still notably present today in the academic milieu of Lima’s schools of architecture.

From Revolutionary to Resilient

As the graduate students from Woodbury University explored the dynamics of what was left of PREVI, an interesting debate flourished among students with local university professors and residents of the neighborhood. The lines of inquiry were directed toward the informal character that PREVI took after the military government pulled the support for the project.

The dialectical dispute here is between architectural purism and individual freedom. After the political unrest of 1968 the inhabitants of PREVI took the liberty to modify and expand the original prototypical housing models designed by the group of international and national architects. The housing units began to morph into what is now an eclectic formalism of applied decoration, security screens and multi story additions, the whole neighborhood changed from a modern rational plan to a resilient landscape of street activity, ground floor markets and inner connected networks of housing clusters, or what Margaret Crawford might call “Everyday Urbanism”.

Some contemporary Lima architects we spoke to call attention to the fact that the residents’ freedom to express their identity or individuality is a legitimate act, yet they feel that the project’s capacity to generate formal and spatial relationships was breached, not only physically but also civically - the modernist ideal of a coherent social-construct and total control through architecture failed once again.

PREVI presents another layer of resiliency, produced out of political unrest, economic uncertainty and the vicissitudes of late modernism in academia and politics. Within these conceptual contexts, the neighborhood also endured the morphological adaptations of the city of Lima, fluctuations in population, the petrol crisis of the 1970’s and contemporary issues like water shortage and clean air. PREVI’s ability of self-organization was a key to its resiliency by responding to the set parameters of the original plan yet it was able to build upon this datum and evolve into thriving community on its own.

In 1965, Christopher Alexander who participated as one of the 12 international architects in the development, wrote the seminal text, “ A city is not a tree” where the tree is a type lattice structure that as it progresses encounters restrictive conditions, as a diagram it represents designed cities or “artificial” cities. On the contrary, cities that express a variety of overlapping sets (people, houses, trees, sidewalks, etc.) are “natural” cities. Therefore and in the manner of Alexander, PREVI’s resilient urban tactic of survival was to bifurcate from an artificial place to a natural one.

The end result of the visit to Lima was a short film produced by the graduate students documenting the current state of PREVI 45 after years of its conception. The documentary includes the testimonial of several residents who have lived in the development since its construction and the academic opinions of architecture faculty from the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria, regarding the urban impact and prototypical housing designs of the project.

In March 2015, the curators of the exhibition “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, chose the short film to be showcased along with original drawings and sketches of PREVI. The film was the only contemporary testimony if any project across Latin America in the exhibition.

The film’s visuals show a PREVI that is unrecognizable from its original plans and photographs during the building process. The individual taste of the inhabitants has grafted with the purism of the canonical modernist project.  Its program has evolved from a housing project for young families to refuge for many elderly who have always called PREVI their sanctuary. Yet, its streets and promenades are full of children and young students who attend the school in the complex, a promising and open urban space for city life.

PREVI, in the end is not a perfect act of urbanism, yet within the contemporary concepts of “resiliency”, it presents a tangible precedent to understand the potential forms of cities to come.  

Rene Peralta

Alexander, Christopher. “A city is not a Tree.” http://www.rudi.net/pages/8755

Bergdoll, Barry. , et al. Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980. 
New York: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015.

Crawford, Margaret. , et al. Everyday Urbanism. New York: The Monacelli Press,

Davis E, Diane. “From Risk to Resilience and Back.” Topos June 2015: 57-59

Lefebvre, Henri. The Urban Revolution. Minneapolis: The university of
Minessota, 2003.

Ruiz Blanco, Manuel. Vivienda Colectiva Estatal en Latinoamerica 1930-1960.
          Lima: Editorial Hazlo, 2003.

Scott, Felicity D. Architecture or Techno-Utopia : Politics after Modernism. 



Fundacion Esperanza de Mexico

Fundacion Esperanza de Mexico 
Building Hope and Homes for low-income communities in Tijuana

Click on the image to go to FEM website

It’s been 4 years now that I have been part of a great organization in which I truly believe in…Fundacion Esperanza de Mexico (FEM). FEM has been working in very low-income neighborhoods in the city of Tijuana, creating community ties through self-built housing projects. In a city where most of the labor force works in the manufacturing industry there is a great need for reliable and well-built housing specifically around the many industrial parks that attract laborers from as far south as Central America. 

FEM first task is to do a detailed community surveys of the areas where it will begin to work, this way it is able to target the most disenfranchised families as well identifying the prospective leaders within the community. In this manner the help FEM provides can reach interested groups of community members who desire to improve their way of life and at the same time allowing to put in place a program that can have a long lasting effect in the neighborhood.

The next steps of the program entails the creation of a self-organized and managed construction fund where  individual members of the community deposit as much money as they can, later FEM helps the families to obtain a federal subsidy that pays for almost half of the homes and allows the families to pay off the credit they received from the fund in two to three years. This process requires approximately 8 to 10 months before the construction of the first home is built. Some community funds are now in their tenth year and have enough money to continue the program on their own and sometimes are able to lend seed money to new upcoming funds.

During the time the funds are being organized, a participating family is chosen to be the first one to build a module. A module is how FEM works; they come in 3 different unit dimensions that in the future can be connected or stacked to create an entire home even a two level house. Because the loan and subsidy of the federal government the family pays off the module very quickly and is able to continue in the program and begin construction of a second or third module according to a plan laid out with FEM in the initial phase of design with the family. The building material is a mortar-less concrete block that is easy to fabricate and build with. The families learn to make their own blocks, encouraging community participation and producing a block that is lower in cost than what the market offers.

Once the blocks are ready and the first inspection to the plots is made construction can begin. It is important to note that FEM only requirement for a family to participate in the program is that they have legal ownership of the land or are in the process of getting a title. Part of the construction of the house is a collaborative process as well, FEM gets help from many organized groups that come to Tijuana from the United States and abroad to help in the construction of the homes. Many of these groups are young high school and university students as well as older professionals or faith based groups. They come to FEM and Tijuana not only to build houses but also to foster global citizenship, international awareness and a gratifying personal experience.

In solidarity, after the home or module is done the family cooks a great meal for the volunteer groups. The unit then is ready to be personalized, painted and inhabited to later grow as the family requires and envisions their future home!

If you would like to help and/or get involved please visit FEM webpage at www.esperanzademexico.org there you can find the email contact for more information or donate through paypal and help build a better future for the communities in our program!


The Third Way
By Rene Peralta

Can we define community, as only a group of people who live in a particular place? Or can we consider that within a community there exists a network of actors who participate in the economic sustainability of a place. Therefore we might say that a community is a place/space where social relations between different actors are formed. And our cities are interrelated group of communities working together to produce a more equitable, just, and sustainable, (in all its meanings) place to co-inhabit.

As geographer David Harvey explains, we all have a right to the city:

“ The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyle, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city”

This past Wednesday June 03 the New Barrio Logan Community Plan was defeated in the polls, an election portrayed as a battle between community and industry. The essential conclusion of the plan was to rezone the area and create a buffer zone between industry and residents as well as a to restrict new industrial spaces within the community. The most important argument for some resident and environmental groups was a demand to protect the integrity of the health of the community. Currently this area one of the top 5% polluted areas in the State of California and within the City of San Diego it has the highest emergency room visits due to respiratory problems, most of them asthma attacks.

Barrio Logan is also home to industries that are vital to San Diego’s economy. According to the National University System Institute for Policy Research this community is an Industry Oriented District with approximately 200 industries and has 7,750 employees, 11,200 indirect and induced jobs and annually producing 1.05 billion dollars in sales. Unfortunately, these industries produce high greenhouse gas emissions that prevent the community from being desirable place to live.

Not only is the community not a healthy desirable environment to live in, it also has a significant low income population, the median income in “The Barrio” is $25,044 compared to the $69,165 in the rest of San Diego County. Only 15% of Barrio Logan citizens own a home.

If we redefine the conflict between residents and industry as challenges and community assets, rather than problems, we will find that Barrio Logan and Logan Heights are communities well served by public transportation with a possibility of becoming strong TOD, (Transit Oriented Developments). It can take advantage of a strong giving industrial economy, environmental effective recycling centers and future educational/trade training centers. Future plans need to foster strategic collaborations for increasing educational opportunities by creating an alliance with the local industry as well as identifying areas for the development of TODs. These challenges need to be interpreted as assets, because there is a possibility for them to work as a network of actions that can lower GHG emissions within the community and beyond.

Future community plans must favor the participation of industry in the redevelopment of the community. There are already state initiatives that could allow for certain protocols to be put in place and begin a best practices approach to GHG emission and pollution from industrial activities. Local industries that pollute can redirect their funds from state funds to specific community efforts to reduce co2 emissions. In Barrio Logan, over 40% of the population is between 18 and 24 years of age in need for jobs and training in the many technical trades needed by local industries of the community. Local businesses can become partners in training the work force of tomorrow right in Barrio Logan. All types of industry need to adhere to better sustainable operational practices and consider creating job-training centers within the community. Transit Oriented Developments are also part of California’s budget and focused to serve disadvantaged communities such as Barrio Logan, where most of the housing stock is single-family detached residences, a situation that inhibits the building of affordable, dense and mix-use housing for the working class. In the educational realm there are already steps being taken by public and private institutions to expand educational opportunities in the near future, such as the non-profit Los Angeles based Woodbury University that already has been in the community for six years offering accredited undergraduate degrees in architecture. Finally, local businesses like recycling centers need to find a way to "green" themselves and stop the polluted runoff with imaginative design schemes of their existing facilities.

The potential exists and the economic incentives are available to assist industry in becoming a partner for a healthy community in Barrio Logan. Innovative ecological design opportunities and technology is there to accomplish it. This approach can transfer development efforts from the grip of a few privileged groups and implement a democratic process, producing opportunities for a struggling and neglected community. We need to counter attack displacement and gentrification of one of San Diego’s most diverse and culturally rich communities with the opportunity to create equity and promote better educational prospects. The urban crisis in Barrio Logan should be a concern to all San Diegans including private industries and foster collaborative alliances between all actors of the community.

Rene Peralta is Director of the Landscape+Urbanism Graduate Program at Woodbury University, San Diego, a non profit academic institution located in the heart of Barrio Logan. He is also an Instructor in the UCSD Urban Studies Program

Images by Arturo Tovar, graduate student in Landscape+Urbanism from Woodbury University, San Diego.


Reportaje Especial: Valle de las Palmas, una Ciudad Fantasma | stmedia

Reportaje Especial: Valle de las Palmas, una Ciudad Fantasma | stmedia
haz click al link para ver el reportaje

foto: sintesis.tv

Una de las ideas que aquí comparto y que han trabajado con los alumnos de la Maestría en Urbanismo+Paisaje de Woodbury University, San Diego es repensar este lugar en un valle de tecnología binacional, donde se le de énfasis a la educación incluyendo mas universidades y a la integración empresas locales y foráneas de tecnología y fabricación. Lo único que mantiene a esta zona con poca vitalidad es la UABC, universidad que puede ser el ancla que inicie la transformación de la zona. Para poder re-habitar las viviendas se necesitaría ofrecer a venta o crédito a los trabajadores, alumnos y profesores de lo que pudiese ser un centro tecnológico importante para el futuro de Tijuana. Sabemos que la maquila seguirá siendo la industria mas importante en Tijuana y se necesita invertir en mejorar la calidad y educación de la mano de obra como también crear una generación de creadores locales. Se pueden diseñar nuevos modelos de parques industriales que no solo sean centros de empleo de mano de obra barata, pero que también generen nuevas tecnologías en los ramos de la medicina, electrónica e industria aeroespacial. Y es aquí y ahora cuando se puede tomar este fracaso de ciudad sustentable y crear el “silicon valley” fronterizo sin destruir uno de los paisajes mas bellos de Baja California.


50 years of Maquilapolis revisited!
This Spring semester in the Woodbury University's Landscape + Urbanism Graduate Studio we worked on documenting the effects of industrial regions, free trade zones and smart cities across the globe (from Silicon Valley, Tijuana/San Diego, Sungdo and Panama). How can the post-industrial define itself today, as many regions and cities rely heavily on industrial production and work as their primary economy, such as Tijuana. We later worked on the difficult project of designing new industrial zones in two area of the city, using spatial mapping to understand if adjacency to markets and/or labor were the most appropriate way to localize different industries. Then we ran the script on these two sites trying to integrate education, affordable housing, and natural remediation technologies - the indifference to these factors by the industry has been the stigma of the "maquiladora" ecologies since they hit the ground in 1965.