Sudestadas and the Relationship of Buenos Aires with the “River Plate”

The following post comes courtesy of Global Site Plans' The Grid. CNU and Global Site Plans recently teamed up to syndicate Grid content, as its contingent of writers presents a view on the opportunities and issues of urbanization all across the world. CNU will carry select posts from the Grid direct on the CNU Salons.


 It has been said many a time that Buenos Aires, Argentina is a port city that forgot it had a coastline. This can be felt in various parts of the city where access to the largest estuary in the world, the Río de la Plata, which completely surrounds Buenos Aires, is almost non-existent.

But the city does get reminded from time to time of its large waterfront, as having this massive amount of water very close consequently leads to problems when nature unleashes its strength.
Picture by official photographer Ricardo Pristupluk- Sudestada, September 2012

The Sudestada is a meteorological phenomenon common in the area of the River Plate. The Sudestada exists due to a rapid rotation of cold winds coming in from the south to the south-east, combining the cold air from Antarctica with the ocean’s humidity. This sudden and violent change produces a dangerous increase of waves and strong rainstorms in the estuary, causing flooding in cities on either side of it.

It is here where we fix our attention on how a city can confront the unintended consequences of misguided approaches to urbanism, especially when environmental context is not taken into account. When environmental context is not taken into account, we end up living in a city that is ultimately unprepared to confront urban flooding on a great scale. Buenos Aires faces many issues as a result of planning the city as if it were Paris, when its geography is more similar to the low countries of Europe.

Image by official photographer Silvana Colombo-Sudestada, October 2012

So, what can be done to fix this problem? Around the world there have been several ideas to help bring relief to these situations, especially concerning the issue of increasing recurrence in the developing world. One special report from theWorld Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, GFDRR, came to my attention due to its applicability to the specific problems in Buenos Aires.

In this report, we find the inclusion of projects presented by a specialized architecture studio from the United Kingdom, Baca Architects, which relates to city-neighborhood flood risk management measures, directed especially towards building level measures and the responsibility of individuals in flood risk reduction.

Image by UK-based 'Baca Architects' Project for Prevention or Urban Flooding

I think these types of measures that do not include more technical adaptations to buildings and basic flood defences, but are aggressive in instructing the population about how to prevent these types of floods, are what cities like Buenos Aires need. In the end, the main concerns must be directed towards the population and so, eventually, the urban planning misdirection of the past can be solved, with lasting solutions to a problem that only continues to head in the wrong direction.

Do you think these palliative measures can last and really solve misguided planning? Can the population make a difference at this point?

To read the original post, written by Luis Lozano-Paredes, visit Global Site Plans.


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