UWAD (Upcycling Water In Atacama Desert) is a project in the North of Chile using Scandinavian technology (IVL Sweden) to separate grey and black water and recycling 100% of the grey water
Antofagasta, Chile has 6 times less Urban Green Spaces than the minimum suggested by WHO (World Health Organization), 9.0m2/Inhabitant
UWAD ApS is building an OASIS in the Middle of the Atacama Desert
In the North of Chile, the main factor to improve Urban Green Spaces (UGS) is access to water
Our main construction material is WATER
From Architecture & Human Rights to a project that upcycles water in the Atacama Desert`in order to create an oasis for the miners of a small village, it has been a long journey that does not begin with our own work. Thousands of architects have been working taking a social perspective on our profession throughout the 20 Century, most of them anonymous and far away from the main focus of international trends. These architects have inspired us and stimulated us to continue on their path. We aim at contributing to this strand of research by connecting architecture and human rights, and from this perspective we imagine an architecture for the 21st century which works on a new and more delicate balance between society and the planet in the context of climate transition.
“ARCHITECTURE IS A HUMAN RIGHT”
Several processes in the history of architecture make us claim “Architecture is a Human Right”:
The Industrial revolution produced one of the biggest impacts on urban development and an increasing interest in our profession, for instance:
- Ancoats, Manchester, 1870s.
- The Scandinavian Welfare States created the most equitable social system in the world with a clear architectural expression (Hornbaekhaus, Copenhagen, 1923).
- The prefabricated Soviet social housing gave shelter to 34 million inhabitants after WW2 (Mikrorayon, Eastern Europe, 1950s and 60s)
- The Latin American approach from the 50s with a strong focus in social demands (COPAN, Sao Paulo, 1952-1966)
However, the evolution of our profession, from a social perspective, slowed down during the ´80s and ´90s (neo-liberal politics). Nevertheless, an architecture of resistance did appear around the world, expressed by hundreds of anonymous professionals, who held onto the ideals of a humanistic architecture (Yona Friedman in France, Fabrizio Carola in Africa, Miguel Lawner in Chile and Edward Rojas in Chiloé).
During the beginning of the 2000s architecture theory encompassed/assembled/embraced/incorporated/displayed a rainbow of different approaches coexisting in the same territory for the first time in our history. One of these visions is empathic with citizens’ demand and with the urgent challenges of our planet: climate crisis, humanitarian emergencies (natural disasters or man-made crises like war or social conflicts), social inequality and global migration as a consequence of all the other matters.
ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE OF HUMANITY
Each thought and each action of human evolution depend on and belong to collective experience, although it may crystallize in a single human being. We must accept that this form of knowledge is part of our collective intelligence and therefore belongs to every human being on the planet. Architecture is an intrinsic part of this accumulated knowledge and should be available to all human beings who live on this planet.
100 years ago BAUHAUS (Weimar April 1st 1919) set up the multidisciplinary and social reformatory: “Architecture is science, art and crafts at the service of society“.
70 years ago appeared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Paris, December 10th 1948).
Today, we are in the position to join these two key human declarations in a new Manifesto entitled ARCHITECTURE IS A HUMAN RIGHT
Global Bridges is a concept that we created in the University UNISS in Sardinia as part of Architecture & Human Rights. This concept conjoins green innovation engineering from the main technologic centres and institutes of the planet, with local communities that live in vulnerable and extreme environments around the world.
We use architecture, art, and social science as a bridge to transfer sustainable technology towards those communities, who are suffering the core effects of the climate transition on the one hand, while on the other hand those communities are a living lesson teaching us how technology can coexist with communities with specific culture and knowledge.
Global Bridges is a contribution to have more resilient and self-determinate communities in this critical moment. Furthermore, Global Bridges tries to stimulate new public policies in the different countries to support our adaptation to the climate transition that our planet is currently facing.
UWAD Upcycling Water in Atacama Desert
‘OUR MAIN CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL IS WATER’
The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the driest deserts in the world. Antofagasta is the biggest city in this area, with the lowest rate of Urban Green Spaces (UGS) in Chile: 1,6m2/inhabitant, which is 6 times less than the minimum of 9.0m2/Inhabitant suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) Indeed, the WHO considers 50m2/inhabitant to be an ideal rate for a sustainable city with a good life quality for its citizens. Antofagasta is far away from this index, which directly affects the health condition of the population, from a psychological and physical perspective. WHO defends the equation: more sustainable city = better community health.
On one hand Antofagasta has this lower rate of Green Urban Spaces (UGS), on the other hand, these few UGS are distributed in an extremely unequal manner across urban space: 90% of the inhabitants of Antofagasta have no or scarce access to these few UGS; the other 10% of the population meets the basic UGS index. This phenomenon contributes to inequality, social unbalance and citizen conflicts.
In the North of Chile, the main factor to improve UGS is the access to the water.
UWAD is a project in the region of Antofagasta Chile, employing Scandinavian technology provided by IVL The Swedish Environmental Research Institute, aimed at separating the grey and black water of a house or building in order to recycle 100% of the grey water.
We will recover each day around 100L/person to irrigate Urban Green Spaces and reach the minimum standard that WHO asks for a sustainable city:10-12m2/inhabitant of Urban Green Spaces only recycling the water that one person consumes per day.
So, we could say that in Atacama Desert each person will produce their own Urban Green Space.
UWAD Upcycling Water in Atacama Desert
‘BUILDING AN OASIS IN THE ATACAMA DESERT’
Sierra Gorda is a commune of 13.000 inhabitants in the Atacama Desert, 1.000 of which lives in 300 houses in a city with the same name ‘Sierra Gorda’. This city lives off the several mine companies around it. The inhabitants are miners, administrative staff, and service providers, among others. In Sierra Gorda everyone has work and housing, an exceptional situation, totally different from most Chilean cities. However, this fortunate economic condition also brings an undesired side effect, namely air pollution from the same mines that give employment to the inhabitants. This paradox and ethical dilemma makes it necessary and urgent to improve the life quality of inhabitants. The UWAD concept could offer a solution: increasing the Urban green spaces (UGS) by upcycling the grey water of the whole city. This action could mitigate the effects of air pollution as well to improve urban life quality.
Several experts work on this project/case-study/initiative: water, chemical and environmental engineers, a public health expert, resilience and mitigation expert, architects, landscapers, urban planners, an economist, lawyers, and social scientists, among others. Architecture and Urban Planning are the general disciplines that connect all the other professional approaches.
The aim is to upcycle the water of every house and public and private buildings (schools, hotels, shops, administration, etc) in the whole city. This action will transform ‘Sierra Gorda’ into an OASIS in the middle of the Atacama Desert, surrounded by a green belt. 300 houses and buildings can produce 120m3 of upcycled water/day. This amount of water will allow to have around 2 to 3 hectares of urban green spaces, which means around 20 m2 of UGS/inhabitant, more than double of the minimum requirement of the World Health Organization (WHO) for a sustainable city, and more than 4 times the Chilean average UGS.
Jorge Lobos is the founder of Architecture & Human Rights ARCH+H.R. and AEiDH Chile and Denmark, the founder of UWAD ApS Denmark, and a researcher and professor in UNISS, Italy