Peru | Lomas de Zapallal

Peru RRF


Project Location:

Lomas de Zapallal, outside of Lima, Peru

Project Partners:

UW Departments of Global Health and Landscape Architecture, the Universidad de San Marcos, the Fogarty International Scholars program, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and the communities of Lomas de Zapallal

Project Team:

Numerous professionals, students, professors and advisers have contributed to this work. We will be creating unique project pages and identifying all names in the near future.





Project Description:

More than a third of Lima’s 9 million occupants live in slums. The conditions of the built environment, ecological degradation, and human health in these communities are inextricably linked and local, regional and global environmental burdens are increasingly borne by the urban poor. Among the worse impacts:


  • Lack of improved sanitation contaminates soils and ground and surface waters leading to increased incidence of dysentery.
  • Stressed water resources contribute to deficient water supplies and hygiene related illnesses.
  • Volatile food prices contribute to widespread malnutrition.
  • Overcrowding and insufficient pollution and dust control contribute to the spread of respiratory illnesses.
  • Lack of public green space contributes to depression and antisocial behaviors.
  • Lack of durable housing and occupation of precarious sites increases the exposure of slum dwellers to climate related illnesses and natural disasters such as landslides and earthquakes.
  • Lack of income generating opportunities lead to conditions of extreme poverty.


By 2050, Lima’s population is expected to increase to 16 million, the city’s primary water supply, the Andean glaciers, will melt as a result of climate change and the regions few remaining ecologically functional landscapes will become scarce. The hardships that the city’s slum dwellers face will become increasingly acute.
The Informal Urban Communities Initiative (IUCI) is a design activism, education and research program based in the urban slum, Lomas de Zapallal in northern Lima, Peru. First established in 2010 as a joint venture between Architects Without Borders – Seattle (AWB-S) and the University of Washington (UW), the IUCI focusses on the community driven design, implementation and evaluation of small scale interventions in community infrastructure that improve human and ecological wellbeing. Over the past 6 years, the IUCI team has worked with community members to design and construct two parks, a classroom, numerous household gardens and a series of pilot fog collection tests.


Fog Water Farms Project

Many of the almost 3 million slum occupants in Lima live without reliable access to clean water. Within as little as a decade, the city’s primary water supply, Andean glaciers below 5500 meters, will melt as a result of climate change and the city’s already inadequate water networks will become increasingly dysfunctional. Lima receives as little as 1/2 cm of rain fall annually, yet has a thick fog bank 6 – 8 months out of the year. In an effort to find a renewable source of water this project focuses on the design and evaluation of fog harvesting technologies that provide clean water at point of use (POU), to help Lima’s slum communities adapt to increasing water scarcity, reduce air pollution, and improve food security through the irrigation of public green spaces and gardens.


By seeking improvements in all components of a fog collection system, a holistic and integrated design was created. The SQWater system captures, stores, and delivers fog water for the irrigation of parks, reforestation, and urban farming, and for household use and drinking, improving ecological and human health and offering a potential source for income generation among LdZ community members. Water systems are often buried underground and hidden from public view. The SQWater system is integrated into a conceptual site design of public space that fosters awareness of water scarcity and an ethic of sustainable water use.


Between June of 2015 and June of 2017, volunteers from AWB-S, UW students and faculty, and community members from the neighborhood of Eliseo Collazos are undertaking a project titled ‘Fog Water Farms’ with funding from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. The project expands upon the IUCI’s previous work on household gardens and fog collection and involves the construction of a large scale fog collection system, more household gardens, a community garden and a small public park.


Between June and September of 2015, the IUCI team completed the first phase of the ‘Fog Water Farms’ project. Working closely with community members to overcome the project’s technical and social challenges, they designed and constructed four large fog collectors, expanded 29 household gardens previously constructed in EC and designed and facilitated the construction of an additional 18 household gardens and a community garden. Fully operational during the fog season in Lima, the fog collection system captures fog water as a source of irrigation for the gardens. They will also serve as the source of irrigation for the public park, currently under development and to be constructed during phase 2 of the project.


The project addresses an endemic lack of public green space in Lima’s poor neighborhoods and the impending threat of and urban water insecurity arising from climate change induced glacial melt in the Andes. Drawing upon local resources including a thick blanket of fog that covers Lima for much of the year and the ingenuity and dedication of participants, the project serves as an example of point of use infrastructure as alternative to centralized infrastructural systems. It aims to distribute vital resources to disenfranchised urban populations and empower slum dwellers to take control of the future development of their neighborhoods.


For more information on the Informal Urban Communities Initiative please visit


Community Gardens | Winner of the 2013 Public Interest Design – Global Competition

Lima has the lowest green space per capita in South America and rapid urban expansion is resulting in the destruction of local habitat, erosion, and air pollution. As Lima’s population continues to grow, water and food shortages will further degrade the region’s few remaining ecologically resilient landscapes and slum dwellers will face increasing hardship. Poor living conditions and environmental degradation are likely to exacerbate health problems including tuberculosis, digestive diseases, malnutrition and stress.
Many of the houses in Eliseo Collazos (and most slums throughout Lima) are constructed with prefabricated wooden panels and other components. The garden ‘kit of parts’ took its cues from the approach to construction and accommodated a wide range of construction experience amongst project participants. It consisted of low cost, locally sourced per-fabricated components. Standard ‘grey’ infrastructure elements were re-imagined as ‘green’  infrastructure garden elements and informally dubbed ‘re-distributed infrastructure’. Through a series of workshops residents were given guidance and materials to do their construction at their homes. 29 home gardens were constructed during August and September of 2013.

As a final step of this work a team will continue to monitor the project to assess its impacts. Health and well-being data will be re-collected 6 months and 1 year after garden construction. Comparative PIA workshops will be conducted at 1 year. A local coordinator visits the community periodically to collect garden journals offer assistance as needed.

To see more about this project check out the 2013 Seed Competition Page.

Escuela Saludable y Ecologica  | Winner of the 2012 National Seed Competition

The projects in Lomas de Zapallal build upon the efforts of AWB volunteers over the past four years and incorporated 8 UW students who participated as part of an International Exploration Seminar. In July, August and September of last year, AWB helped to design and construct a 600 SM park at the Pitagoras School. In 2012, AWB sent a Project Manager along with the UW team to evaluate progress and explore additional ways to help.


The park’s design provides vital access between the school’s central gathering area and the primary school, green space in an otherwise barren desert landscape and areas for students to relax and play. Constructed from local stone, nurturing more than 200 shrubs, trees and other plants and incorporating an innovative grey-water irrigation system, the project improves human well being and ecological health while addressing Lima’s looming water crisis.


The project relied heavily upon community investment and served as a platform for community mobilization at an impressive scale. Its design was conceived and crafted through a series of participatory design workshops involving students, parents and teachers. More than 300 parents graded the site with shovels and wheelbarrows, laid stone to form pathways at platforms and planted trees. The park was constructed in 2 weeks.


AWB looks forward to continuing our efforts as part of the Escuela Saludable y Ecologica Initiative, as well as additional project in this community, as well as in the adjoining Eliseo Collazos neighborhood. Several projects are currently underway;

  • New classrooms will provide a durable healthy environment for secondary students to pursue their studies
  • A school-based community health center will provide essential medical services currently unavailable in the area
  • A retaining wall in Eliseo Collazos


It is our hope that over time, successful projects at will improve living conditions, health and ecological resilience of Lomas de Zapallal, Eliseo Collazos, and urban slums worldwide.


To see more about this project check out the 2012 Seed Competition Page.

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