Campus News - September 4, 2001
'Cristobal' Calott sets out to develop new world
By Carolyn Gonzales
Calott, or, Cristobal, as his Mexican colleagues know him, knows a side of Juarez
few Americans see. Now that hes seen it, he wants to make a difference.
Working primarily on community outreach projects at the UNM School of Architecture
and Planning, Calott, in his second year of a visiting associate professorship
at the school, holds a joint appointment in both the architecture and community
and regional planning programs.
Among his many quality of life projects, his most ambitious concerns Anapra,
an unregulated colonia or barrio that sprang up in the last 10-15
years on the outskirts of Juarez, across from Sunland Park, New Mexico on a
line in the sand, considered politically to be the U.S/Mexican border.
Realistically, the border extends long distances into both countries.
Los Angeles could be considered the northernmost barrio of Mexico City,
says Calott, explaining that the culture and the border issues extend far beyond
the fence and the Rio Grande River.
How do we, as design professionals, direct the growth of an unregulated colonia? asks Calott. Its a daunting task; we may be unable to, he answers, but he adds that with Vicente Fox in office as the new Mexican president, he sees the possibility of the tides turning.
A first step is to look at it as a gardener would. Just as a garden is tended
to improve its health and direct growth, Anapra needs to be tended
to redefine density and plan its growth.
Calott explains that currently Anapra is expanding in the direction of the
border, toward the American side near Sunland Park.
With a pedestrian crossing already authorized in the area, he sees the possibility for free flow of workers to the American side, with a corresponding cash flow into Anapra. Conversely, there would be an impact too, on Sunland Park, explains Calott.
Calott says that the situation must be looked at holistically. He says designers and environmental planners need beat the movement northward if to effect a positive direction in the evolution of the barrio.
If no one looks at the problems, there will be more problems, more abuses
by the maquila system and the housing problems will only develop further,
he says, adding that the area has no utilities, water, basic sanitation and
that most of the homes are constructed of cardboard, plywood or any material
the people are able to find.
Meanwhile, three miles away, at the Santa Teresa/San Jerónimo crossing,
Harvard University conducted a similar study. Two differences stand out between
the two areas. People were not already residing in the area where Harvard conducted
their study. Additionally, private developers owned the land on both sides of
the border. But, whats more important, is what both crossing zones need,
Acknowledging that governmental approval and support on both sides is required,
Calott says, We can truly create bi-national urban areas on these sites.
Border issues such as health care, education and job training are needed so
that industries such as Motorola, Phillips and Intel might relocate in the area.
Also, the border is ripe to develop retirement communities both Mexican
and US and create cultural exchanges and artisan centers. In a borderless
community, a myriad of possibilities exist, he says.
NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was created to develop a borderlessness, says Calott, who adds that greed motivated the first wave and that a holistic approach is required to take NAFTA where it can go, which is to develop healthy societies and opportunities in the transborder region
At the same time, says Calott, in New Mexico were just beginning to realize
that were late to the party. Were not El Paso/Juarez.
We can do better if we learn the lessons of the first eight years of NAFTA,
he says. Students and others need to start thinking about our neighbors, he
says, indicating that the research and outreach can be pursued for many years
Calott is not a Cristobal-come-lately to Mexican urban planning issues. As co-director of the University of Arkansas/Universidad Anahuac Summer Urban Design Studio exchange program, hes been taking students from Arkansas, and now UNM, to Mexico for 10 weeks in the summer to study Mexican urbanism and architecture, from its indigenous roots, to the colonial and modern eras. Summarily, the students spend half of those 10 weeks in a Mexico City design studio developing plans addressing a specific urban topic. Through the years, Calott has picked up some Spanish, as well as a few friends.
Funding for the program, to be conducted in spring semester, 2002, is from
the J.B. Jackson endowment and brings together many of Calotts friends.
His blue ribbon group includes design students from the Universidad Naciónal
Autónoma de Mexico, Mexico City, led by Miquel Adria and Isaac Broid,
graduate architecture students from the University of Texas, Austin, led by
Coleman Coker; graduate landscape architecture students from Auburn University
led by Jack Williams; and graduate planning and architecture students from UNM
will also be involved, with help from David Henkel, director of UNMs planning
The studio will work directly with the Instituto de Arquitectura, Designo e Arte, the planning arm for Ciudad Juarez, and the city of Sunland Park, along with private developers and landowners.
The problem is comprehensive and its not just an architectural
or planning problem. It encompasses planning and landscape as well as architecture,
but it also involves social, economic and environmental issues that need to
be addressed, he says.
I send out my call. I want individuals from every background. I already
have the help of Miguel Gandert from Communications and Journalism because he
opened the door for me in Juarez. He has been a tremendous asset. Id like
to work with others like him from every discipline imaginable, he says.
UNM, as a nationally recognized institution, should be out front in work at the border and on the tough border issues, says Calott.
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