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Investigation| Architecture | Social | Urbanism


San Jose, Costa Rica


Novemeber 2019

An extensive research was made to try and give a solution to both the growing homeless population and the existing urban decay of one of the most conflictive parts of the city of San Jose, CR. The daily lives of the homeless located in the place were analyzed in order to grant a detonating program that will begin the process of both a social and physical regeneration. As a first catalyst an 80s 6-story abandoned building was chosen to hold a mixed use progam that would respond to the social and physical necesities of the area while seeking to become economically sustainable in a near future. 


To analyze the physical and social context even further I explored different methodologies to delve into the daily lives of the homeless, analyzing their needs and the limitations of the existing shelters. It became clear that most shelters focused solely on covering basic necessities without providing the necessary tools for social reintegration. Additionally, I explored the abandoned city center, identifying sectors like El Paso De la Vaca, located on one of the most conflictive areas but also with great potential for the connection with its surroundings. Many abandoned buildings in the area were mapped and further investigated to analyze their type of use and current state. 

With a solid understanding of the problems at hand, I formulated a central question to guide my thesis...

To generate a complete solution, I conducted extensive research on successful transitional homes and housing first programs implemented in other countries. Drawing inspiration from these models and existing services in the country, I identified the services that would be offered in the reintegration program and their respective spacial necessities. 


As the project progressed, I identified the Alfa building in El Paso De la Vaca as the perfect site for the intervention. I created a prototype that utilized the first two floors as the shared spaces for the program. These floors provided spaces for showcased resident artistic work, classes to improve their skills, a cafeteria, and offices for the staff. The rest of the floors were the transitional apartments that were equipped for up to 2 residents.

 Collaborating with advisors and stakeholders, I collected feedback and valuable insights to refine and improve the prototype. This iterative process allowed me to continuously refine the design, program, and services, ensuring the project's effectiveness and relevance. With some of the new insights the viability of the project came into light and with this a new user was introduced. Now, apart from the homeless population there were new spaces directed for the working class that transisted the area daily; with this new activity in the building the revenue from the first levels would help in the mantainance of the transitional program.

In the final stages, I integrated a mixed-use approach to ensure long-term sustainability and viability. The ground and first floors were transformed into Colash, a vibrant gastronomic market that also featured recreational areas, green spaces, and multiple food and beverage kiosks. These inviting spaces aimed to attract both the homeless population and the working class in the area, detonating an interaction and contributing to the urban regeneration of the zone. The upper floors were repurposed as office spaces, classrooms, and apartments designed to accommodate the residents, offering a solution that answered to the needs of different stakeholders.

Alfa/Colash evolved into a comprehensive and sustainable solution for the challenges of homelessness, urban blight, and social reintegration in the city capital. It exemplified the power of design in transforming spaces and improving the lives of individuals and communities.

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