The Local Condition: The Andes– an unappreciated paradise
Environmental awareness, seeking a suitable integration with the environment to generate sustainable developments, has transformed the way in which contemporary societies plan their cities and buildings. However, this transformation not only demands environmental awareness, it requires constant reflection over our environment, its characteristics and possibilities.
Such reflection has a two-fold approach; on the one side, it must be based on surveys related to climate, geography and biodiversity of our Andean region, it also must feed from a deconstruction of anthropological thought that places people above the rest of living entities in the planet. From this space, I want to begin this journey of reflection through our environment.
In geographical terms, our region is dominated by the Andes mountain range, made up by strings of mounts, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, high plateaus, grasslands, peaks, valleys, and lakes.
In regards to climate, the crossing of the warm zone, also called equatorial zone, influences the region and the country; this zone is characterized by a humid tropical climate in transition zones towards the coastland and the Amazon region. It’s a mild semi-humid climate in the inter-Andean section; warm and dry in the inter-Andean valleys, and high-mountain cold weather in the grasslands over 3000 masl.
This particular geographical and climate junction results in a vast array of micro-climates, as well as weather and topographic conditions, valuable in terms of urban planning and construction.
A humid tropical climate, at 1000 to 1800 masl, most of the time offers people a comfortable thermal sensation. According to the Koppen classification, temperatures in the Andean region do not exceed 18°C in the summer season, nor do they drop below 3°C in wintertime.
We need a deconstruction of anthropological thought that places people above the rest of living entities in the planet.
In this context, architectural design can take advantage of this type of pleasant and comfortable conditions; for example, it can benefit from temperature changes to evenly distribute light and heat, incorporating heat by night and dispersing it through warmer moments during the day. In the Andean zone above 2,500 masl and with low-humidity levels, the use of building materials that will allow distributing temperature is quite suitable, for their mass will serve to store heat that may be used by night, a passive technique ancestrally used in adobe and dirt constructions.
Therefore, the need to ponder on the urban growth of our cities in the region is thought provoking. There is a need to reflect on how we take advantage of the climate and geographic blessings we enjoy, as well as to think on how architectural designs and urbanism respond to climate and geographic conditions, in addition to questioning whether our constructions foster a symbiotic relationship with the environment.
A quick glance at contemporary Andean cities will lead us to an inevitable conclusion: the wasting of the natural environment in the world built. Living surrounded by rich and diverse geographic and climate scenarios results in a worrying dichotomy as these are not incorporated in the building of our cities, thus, they are not incorporated in the daily lives of people.
This conclusion also has a firm grasp in our own perception of culture, nurtured by an exclusively anthropological view, based on foreign planning models, which dictate the existence of nature so we may make use of it. Architecture is, and should be, a tool for the resolution of this dichotomy, as well as to ensure a cultural deconstruction that may allow us not only to appreciate our natural surroundings, but also to symbiotically add it to our undertakings. In our case, in our cities, it is up to us to value and incorporate the advantages of this unique geographical location.