Cityscope Course: Tambo de Mora, Peru

Image by CoLab.

In the spring 2008 Cityscope course, students traveled to the earthquake-torn, seaside town of Tambo de Mora, Peru. Over a year after the earthquake, Tambo de Mora was still suffering from displacement, flooding damage, and broken municipal buildings and parks. MIT partnered with the Universidad del Pacifico in Lima to look for solutions.

CityScope is based on the symbiotic relationship between complexity in the world and human value systems. The city, as possibly the most complex anthropogenic construct, is both a direct manifestation of our organizational ambitions of enormous physical proportions and a host to all of our philosophical, social, political and economic drives. Cities require the gathering, storage and distribution of huge amounts of resources guided by the laws, customs, prejudices and peculiarities of our institutions and controlling agents. Both of these types of physical and nonphysical systems coexist, interact, interfere and continuously orbit around one another as cities expand, contract and evolve.

CityScope took students through a series of topics that presented Peru and its cities in all of their rich and tragic facets. The course used social and political science, engineering and technical tools, architectural design and other fields and methods to explore the complexity of these cities to reveal and propose solutions. It focused on Tambo de Mora, which is host to a toxic mix of some of the worst problems of a post-disaster urban zone. Suffering from a natural, human, political and social tragedy, the city's future continues to float uneasily between possibility and sustained malaise. Developing good strategies for urban disaster recovery is increasingly relevant, as global urbanization collides with global warming.