Temporary Permanent

In 1972, Managua was struck by a devastating earthquake. The city center was built above a series of 7 folds that run through the Central American isthmus. Today, the former rectangular shaped downtown area remains visible as a void in the urban tissue of the post disaster development. The new city is growing around the four major bus stations at the corner points of the former downtown.

First world shopping mall experiences that serve a rich minority and tourists punctuate a seemingly endless suburban sprawl. Leaving the buzzing life of the main market areas, one needs to find its way in a city of a completely undefined separation between urban and rural life with an orientation system that is partly based on former landmarks that no longer exist.

Contrary to this landscape dotted with Multiplex cinemas and U.S. inspired drive-in restaurants, the informal development for business and housing of a large lower class happened with barely any legal control. The municipality of Managua is now trying to structure the growth that took place over the last decades and to legalize grounds for settlement.

This seemingly delayed process becomes understandable, looking at Nicaragua's recent history around the end of the 20th century that was defined by dictatorship in the 1970's, a Marxist revolution in the 1980's, the blossoming of democracy as well as the parallel fight against political corruption and natural hazard in the 1990's. In 1998, the entire country's economy was thrown back by the destructive power of hurricane Mitch.

In this investigation, we look at two distinct living conditions in Managua that illustrate different forms of urban settlement. A condition of temporary shelter can ultimately become permanent urban development like in the case of El Pantanal, a former illegal settlement that recently has been legalized; about 20 years after the first family settled on the site. In the other case, we look at a political demonstration that brought people from rural areas to Managua for an indefinite stay. Their huts and shelters are starting to constitute a new urban community with their own infrastructure and identity.

Dwellers are interviewed and accompanied in their urban lifestyle. Two short documentary films illustrate the development of these two informal settlements somewhere within the large urban carpet of Nicaragua's spatially fragmented and socially segregated capital.

Credits:

A Foundation (Oliver Schütte and Marije van Lidth de Jeude) with Habitar and the Municipality of Managua

Scope: Research

Status: Completed

Location: Managua, Nicaragua

Year: 2004-2006