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Cambridge City Seminars: Blurring Boundaries: Reconsidering the Urban Inside: The Public Tap: Water Collection at the Core of Shantytown Space and Politics (Buenos Aires, 1954-1978)

Adriana Laura Massidda, Centro de Estudios Urbanos y Regionales
When May 15, 2018
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Boardroom, Department of Architecture
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Queues and water collection from public taps emerge as a recurrent element in accounts about mid-twentieth century shantytowns in Buenos Aires. Starting as early as 4am, hundreds of residents (mainly women and

children) approached the few available sources of running water they had nearby to stock up for the day. By midday taps would be almost empty.

The queue was a key place of socialisation, information exchange, and also disputes. Moreover, the proximity to public taps determined the location where each family would choose to settle when first arriving in a shantytown. Shantytowns grew through the gradual accretion of individual self-built houses over time, and aerial photos illustrate the way in which spaces fill-up from the borders of the plots toward the centre. This talk will explore the centrality of one element, taps, and one material, water, in mid-twentieth shantytown public space and politics. In fact, taps and water did not only play a key role in everyday practices and space transformation in shantytowns. Crucial for survival, their provision and the extension of networks were at the core of the first collective organisations in Buenos Aires shantytowns.

Furthermore, they were also a key point of negotiation between residents’ groups and local and national governments, also standing as one of the first items destroyed by governments that attempted shantytown eradication. Amongst the several material scarcities faced in these communities, self-built on unserviced occupied land, fresh water appears as the most urgent and also most powerful material to bring people together, both for collection and for collective provision - in Buenos Aires and also along the Americas.


Speaker's Bio:

Adriana Laura Massidda is an architect who graduated from Buenos Aires with expertise in the history of urban informality. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Centro de Estudios Urbanos y Regionales (CEUR/CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina), were she is developing a project on spatial agency, gender and socio-ecological transformations within two Buenos Aires shantytowns, with a particular focus on infrastructure. Adriana completed her PhD thesis at the University of Cambridge (King’s College/Department of Architecture) in 2016, which constituted a historical enquiry into the social co-production of space in Buenos Aires shantytowns during 1958-1967. In addition, Adriana has worked in architectural practice and has taught at the Bartlett School of Architecture, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Buenos Aires. Adriana is a trustee of the Caravanserai London architectural collective.