Urban Legends

An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories usually believed by their tellers to be true. As with all folklore and mythology, the designation suggests nothing about the story's veracity, but merely that it is in circulation, exhibits variation over time, and carries some significance that motivates the community in preserving and propagating it. An urban legend in Costa Rica is that living in the city is less attractive than living in suburban or rural areas; a perception that is creating increasing concern with the national government as the urban population of the country already exceeds 60%.

What should Costa Rica's future look like: a mega-village, an endless suburban sprawl or densified urban cores contrasted by a functional green surrounding? How can the country maintain its protected nature and one of its main sources of income in terms of ecological tourism, without endangering its economic, environmental and social development?

This project focuses on citizen education within the Greater Metropolitan Area of Costa Rica (GAM). A governmental planning program called PRUGAM, accompanied by A Company, foresees to re-structure the largest urban territory of Central America as a polycentric network system, distinguishing between densified and multifunctional urban cores, suburban peripheries and green areas dedicated to urban agriculture and recreation. In order to sensibilize the population of the GAM regarding the implied changes of the urban planning guidelines, we developed the Urban Legends comic strip as a tool for communication. Improving the urban condition in Costa Rica implies a change of urban culture that has gotten used to the North American model of suburban sprawl and the use of individual motorized traffic in order to reach the focal points of its daily routine in a socially segregated and spatially fragmented urban environment.

The project includes -besides the actual design of the comic strip- workshops, public presentations and participatory events, as well as university workshops about urban design, the environmental condition of the city and possibilities to reclaim public space for active citizen participation and contact amongst its users.

The different volumes of Urban Legends inform the citizens of the GAM about the state, as well as the economic, environmental, and social benefits of actual urban planning projects in Costa Rica’s Greater Metropolitan Area, such as the C.C.M.E.C., El Pochote, the Parque Metropolitana La Libertad, P.N.S.G.A.M., and Trama Verde. They all respond to the idea of a continuous and integrated green built environment within the existing urban, sub- and inter-urban fabric in order to lower CO2 emissions or develop new inner urban connections such as the Intermanzana. Different sections for bicycle and pedestrian transport are promoted in projects such as Calle Carmona and Buscando Ciclovía.


A Foundation (Oliver Schütte and Marije van Lidth de Jeude) with Veritas University and project specific support for PRUGAM

Location: Various

Status: Completed

Year: 2006-2011