Although the latest design for Cuenca’s San Fransciso Plaza was made public on Wednesday, opinions about it are essentially the same as for the previous design: no one likes it.
“It looks like a parking lot with some kiosks thrown into the middle of it,” says Cuenca architect Jorge Calle. “The complaint about the last plan was that its character detracted from the character of the buildings around it. Well, this one has absolutely no character at all.”
Calle added: “My other objection is that there’s no green space. It’s nothing but concrete and tile.”
Although Calle is not part of the planning commission that will give final approval for the project, he says he has spoken to members who agree with him about the design.
A the same time, vendors who currently occupy the plaza are angry because the new plan reduces the space they have to sell their goods and replaces their permanent metal tiendas with movable kiosks. They say they will go to court if necessary to block any new design that they don’t like.
Meanwhile, the city planning office says that a review is underway and that the new plan will undergo major changes before it is final, although they don’t provide any information about those changes. The city says the final plan will be available within weeks and that contracts for the project will be signed in December or January.
When the city awarded the design contract to the University of Cuenca faculty of architecture last January, instructions were to make it more compatible with the surrounding architecture and to restore vendors to the plaza. The previous plan, developed during the administration of previous Cuenca Mayor Paúl Granda, moved vendors to underground space below the plaza, reserving the plaza for public use. Designers of that plan pointed out the most of the vendors currently in the central plaza sell Chinese-made goods and not Ecuadorian artisanal products.
Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, who defeated Granda almost two years ago, insisted that the vendors remain in the plaza no matter what they sold. He agreed that more area needed to be set aside for public use, such as concert and crafts fairs.
Although vendors are insisting on being part of the changes to the new plan, planners say they want to finish their modifications before discussions begin.