- Whither Managua? Evolution of a City’s Morphology   click here to open paper content778 kb
by    Brown, David & Bornstein, Lisa | david.brown@mcgill.ca   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
A study of the effect of two natural disasters, a revolution and civil war, and the emergence of a liberal economy on the urban morphology of Managua. Lessons for other cities facing massive integrative and disintegrative waves are offered.
Present-day Managua, Nicaragua is a fascinating city for urban observers and a virtual laboratory for urban planners. Etched into the urban landscape are the results of a massive earthquake in 1972 that destroyed the entire city center and which has yet to be rebuilt, the strong-arm rule of the Somoza family, a socialist revolution in 1979 that was followed by years of civil war, the return of self-exiled professionals and international investment following the victory of a liberal government in 1990, the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, a series of recent political and banking scandals, and a recent building boom fueled by private sector investment. Faced with these massive integrative and disintegrative waves over the past 40 years, the city’s one million plus residents, the vast majority of whom are very poor, have somehow managed not only to carry on but to retain a remarkable degree of civility and optimism for the future.

This paper focuses on the evolution of the social and physical morphology of Managua from the l966 to the present. The information sources for this analysis include an extensive collection of historic maps and urban plans, the master file for the 1995 census, interviews with architects, engineers and planners, and first-hand observations. The research questions to be addressed include: How can a city function without a city center? What effect did the social integration policy of the socialist Sandinista government have on urban form and the composition of neighborhoods? Is there a pattern to the recent building boom in the city? What role have the numerous plans prepared over the years played in the evolution of the city’s morphology? Conclusions that may offer lessons for other cities that have been faced with massive change will be offered.
urban morphology planning natural disasters revolutions
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