Asuncion, Paraguay

Master Plan for the Historical Downtown



The city of Asuncion in Paraguay has half a million people in a low-rise city that spreads out from its historic core. Many residents have moved out of the historic center due to the poor quality of the buildings. The city has initiated a project to bring residents back into the historic center by re-densifying the urban fabric with mixed-uses, providing the necessary facilities to make the city center attractive again to all of the population. Public space will also be improved, generating meeting places that promote new urban experiences. The currently empty historic buildings in the city center will be re-used and enhanced as part of the project.

As part of the urban renewal of the center the project will promote the creative economy, tourism and cultural industries and design strategies for sustainable mobility. Citizen and institutional participation will be developed through digital tools and establish finance mechanisms and management approaches. The relationship between the city, the bay and the nature reserve of San Miguel will be improved.

Importantly the initiative reconnects the city to the river with a series of parks and a nature reserve and flood management approaches and generates a new gateway between the city and the river. An informal settlement in the old center will benefit from the renewal process.

The approach to the initiative is to produce an "Urban Future Vision" with 10 strategies, an action plan and 40 pilot projects. An Asuncion Open Laboratory (ASU-LAB) is being established as a link between public institutions, private organizations and citizens. The city will work with students to develop new information and mapping of the city.

The Technical Committee was impressed with this initiative as an example of how towns with depopulated historic cores can reverse the decay by increasing density, providing public space and by involving and engaging the community.  This approach is clearly about renewal and not only conservation. The balance of new buildings with public spaces including the creation of a "coastal active green space" and other environmental projects will lead to increased tourism for the city. Many other towns and cities with historic cores that need renewal can learn from this example of how to involve their communities in forging a new vision for the city.