El Polígono Central

Plantains in PatioThe Gran Santo Domingo is one of the mayor urban conglomerations of the Caribbean. Our site of action is located in the Polígono Central, a group of several neighborhoods located in central Santo Domingo. Here, the city experienced an accelerated vertical growth. Lack of proper urban regulations and private developers designed projects to gain the most profit for less investment. It has been vertiginously transformed from a low density urban model, single house plots surrounded by gardens, to a high density urban model, without taking into consideration the need for greenspace and underground infrastructure. A plot that was once occupied by a single family, now houses up to 46 families. Verticality has imposed itself over horizontality.

This exponential increase in density has transformed the streets from active and ludic places of encounter to  anonymous spaces. Parking has been the great conqueror invading both streets and sidewalks, and what used to be green gardens are now covered with cars.

The tropical dynamics and proper ventilation offered by the configuration of the typical modern house is constantly being attacked by a future multistory housing development. The usual encounters with people from across the street, is less frequent; people barely know their neighbours. What used to happen in public open space today happens in the shopping mall due to the drastic reduction of parks and greens spaces. We have been immersed in the capitalist way of living gaining distance from nature and losing awareness of our original tropical surroundings.

All this land of the Poligino Central is now the most valuable real estate in the city. In the 50’s it was mostly destined for cattle as well as the city’s international airport. At that time, modern era living concepts and standards were introduced. These lands were then urbanized with those ideals. The single family house typology was introduced with plans that adapted themselves to the tropical climate, maintaining  existing traditional mechanisms of tropical architecture and combining them with the rational open plans and modernist construction materials and aesthetics. These units occupied a relatively small percentage of the lots, allowing for ample open spaces in the back and also in the front towards the street. This area became the home of the growing bourgeoisie. Today, most of these houses have disappeared and with them a key moment of the city’s urban and social history.