El Bosque

Integral design of a multifunctional neighborhood located in a marginalized area of El Salvador. The site is bordering the municipalities of Soyapango and Ciudad Delgado, which form part of the Metropolitan Area of San Salvador (AMSS). The work is based on a Toolbox design developed for El Salvador, named Toolbox 503 in reference to the international telephone code of the country.

Primarily, the Toolbox 503 is aimed at solving local problematics within the AMSS. Nevertheless, the Toolbox is aiming at a bigger picture: to help resolve a shortage in affordable and sustainable housing based on a systematic approach. Living sustainably in the tropical climate of the area includes a variety of factors, dealing with environmental, social and economic concerns at the same time. Our inclusive approach aims at an optimized response to what we call the 4 E’s: Environment, Equity, Economy and Engineering. Beyond El Salvador and Central America, the Toolbox can be used anywhere in the Global Tropics as it includes a series of initial steps that help to adapt to local situations, climatic and cultural variations.

In terms of the different layout proposals generated by the Toolbox approach, an interpretation of locally prevailing urban patterns -from colonial central grid structures to middle and highrise constructions- is made to provide the local authorities with a maximized catalogue of autochthonous models (the neighborhood or "barrio", the city block, the condominium, the superstructure), which can be developed and adjusted based on specific site parameters and building methods (from low-tech to highly industrialized). All proposals intend to maximize uses and functions within the target site in order to create an alternative model to the currently prevailing urban system that separates functions (working, sleeping, recreation etc.) on a large scale. On the contrary, the different proposals created by the Toolbox approach result in very different and highly diversified types of mix‐use neighborhoods that can be individually modified and co‐created through the inhabitants.

The proposed urban structures were evaluated based on their individual performance in terms of an integral sustainability. The advantages of all options were evaluated and synthesized in a final design, the so-called "super-barrio", which predominantly combines aspects of the "barrio" as well as the superstructure approaches. The project offers a variety of services, commercial and recreational spaces to its inhabitants: around 200 families are expected to settle in El Bosque. The idea of a densified neighborhood with a maximization of urban program on site is to reduce travel time, thus saving human, economic as well as natural resources. A very specific focus in the project is set upon urban spaces that support citizen security in this gang-ridden area. These public spaces are framed between the housing, commerce and social services areas in order to create a diversified urban program that attracts people throughout the day and night. The designs of the buildings follow the principles of a bioclimatic architecture, thus optimizing their performance in the local tropical climate.

This work is initiated and financed by Cordaid Urban Matters from The Netherlands. Following the idea of a Multistakeholder Approach, the proposal is based on a continuous feedback loop with local, national and international stakeholders. The El Bosque project is developed in close collaboration with the Vice Ministry for Housing and Urban Development, the Salvadoran Foundation for Development and Minimal Housing FUNDASAL, local industries and NGOs as well as the current and future inhabitants of the area.


A Company (Oliver Schütte, Marije van Lidth de Jeude, Machiel Crielaard and Jose Solis) in collaboration with XCOOP (Andrea Bertassi, Cristina Murphy, Nikos Nikolis and Siebe Voogt) for Cordaid Urban Matters

Location: Metropolitan Area of San Salvador

Status: Design Development

Year: 2012