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La Villa Pesquera del Crash Boat
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
GC2022 finalist
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
agriculture & fisheries
design development
19 February 2023
On 2017 Hurricane Maria destroyed the Villa Pesquera (fishers village), center of Crash Boat’s beach local economy, culture and identity. The proposed project is a comprehensive plan to adapt the area in the face of climate change using science-based landscape management techniques and collectively redesigning the Villa through participatory design methods ensuring the fishers leadership, technical expertise and a resilient architecture approach.
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The Villa Pesquera was located in one of the most iconic beaches in Puerto Rico, Crash Boat, Aguadilla. For more than a century, fishermen have been sailing through the rough waters of the Atlantic sea, parting from Crash Boat. In the 1970s, a fishing village was built- this became a center of the region's local economy, people from all over the Island came to buy fresh fish and nearly 100 fishermen sustained their families from the sea. This was also a cultural space where la Virgen del Carmen (the fishers patron) was celebrated and the art and technique of fishing was passed to next generations. Five years ago Hurricane Maria’s 160 km/h winds, storm surge and coastal erosion (which carried away 40% of the beach's sand) the Villa Pesquera was completely destroyed. Due to the lack of infrastructure, fishermen have been obligated to part to sea from other places and some of them are not fishing anymore due to the complexities of not having a place to manage their work. From the hundreds of wooden fishing boats, known as the “yola aguadillana”, that spread along the Crash Boat, we now only see a couple of tens. The yola aguadillana is fabricated by local fishers and is known to manage big waves and bad weather- this is the only place where this craftsmanship is alive. Displacement forces are capitalizing over the opportunity of turning this iconic fishing beach into a touristic venue- rapidly occupying the spaces and damaging the ecosystems that once were used by the fishers.
The identity, culture and economy of a space is fed by those that inhabit the place- in the case of coastal communities, by its fishermen. This project is a comprehensive plan to restore the activities that operates within the landscape of the Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla, PR. Through low-impact, local economic development strategies and the fishermen’s empirical knowledge– we are using local labor and talents in the design and execution of la Villa Pesquera. A low-income community that has been dedicated to fishing activities for more than a century, five years after Hurricane Maria is still missing its basic infrastructure. This has catalyzed a reduction of the fishing community and exponentially decreased the local fishing production. The Villa Pesquera was not only a place to clean up and sell fish, it was also a gathering and organizing place for the general community, a fundamental place to pass the legacy on to future generations. The result of not having a Villa has a huge toll on family income, local commercial revenue and most important, food security also risking an important part of our culture and identity. Through a collectively designed masterplan using ecosystem based approach management we plan to protect one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Rico in the face of climate change while respecting and honoring local traditions. Setting the area for a new space that will grow progressively and resiliently into a building, will showcase an example of how Villas Pesqueras can adapt and be leaders of environmental and community progress around the island. 
Core team
After the Villa Pesquera was destroyed, Victor, Social Worker and Annette, Lawyer both from Proyecto DeCiudad in collaboration with Ray, president and Enrique vice-president of the fishermen Association organized to reclaim the land where the Villa used to be in order to rebuild the lost asset. La Maraña- a participatory planning and design non-profit, began working in April 2022, when the fishermen and Proyecto DeCiudad made the approach to support them with participatory design tools to collectively pave the way towards a new Villa. Francisco and Cynthia led the team into a research and understanding process of the identity and history of the fishermen, expectations and dreams. This cognizance merged with the empiric knowledge of the local fishing community has been guide for the redesign of a resilient and innovative Villa Pesquera. This work supported by Mariangelie’s grassroots organizing experience, Edgardo’s graphic communications skills and Adriana’s planning knowledge. Throughout this exercise we understood the complexities of the coastal ecosystems in the face of climate change and what building for permanence in the coast means. For that, we included coastal scientists and experts. Patricia, coastal engineer at the head of CARICOOS- organization that provides observations of winds, waves and currents for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Ruperto is the executive director and Janette, community outreach at Sea Grant- organization in charge of supporting and training a workforce that is environmentally literate and equipped to address national and local needs.
Core Team

image: La Maraña | © all rights reserved
Image gallery

image: Javier Colón | © all rights reserved
Participatory Design Workshop

image: Javier Colón | © all rights reserved
Design presentation

image: Javier Colón | © all rights reserved

image: Javier Colón | © all rights reserved
Fishermen working

image: Javier Colón | © all rights reserved
Fishermen assembly

image: Javier Colón | © all rights reserved
Technical drawings

image: La Maraña | © all rights reserved
Site Plan

image: La Maraña | © all rights reserved
Former Villa Pesquera

image: La Maraña | © all rights reserved
Proposed Villa Pesquera

image: La Maraña | © all rights reserved

image: La Maraña | © all rights reserved
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Where are we now
This project is conceived in a projected 5 year plan until the Villa is finished. The beach has one container for storage. For 1st phase 2 new containers will be installed: 1 to sell fish (funded) and 2 as working areas (not funded). The containers will be connected through a series of wooden walkways to minimize impact to the sand ecosystem and maximize open spaces for diverse activities. As a part of the adaptation to climate change actions, nature based solutions are being implemented. The first planting activity was held on Dec 2022, where a group of locals and fishers planted native species strategically located within the beach to absorb storm surge impacts and reduce sand erosion.
An indication of our team’s capacity:
20% funding already raised
70% expertise already found
5% materials / equipment already found
50% builders already found
Finance: € 56,825
We have already received funding for the first trailer, installation and water/ energy infrastructure but not for the greenhouse, 2nd trailer, walkways and landscape management in order to finish phase 1. This will support the fishermen in order to get back to their usual labors and occupy the beach again. As part of these first steps we recently entered in collaboration with CoCo PR, an aguadillan non-profit that will be in charge of the tree planting, maintenance, volunteer activities and the greenhouse.This last will serve as this first long term beach restoration action necessary to grow locally the vegetation that will be used in reforestation activities thus ensuring survival rate.
  • Greenhouse materials
  • Greenhouse structure
  • Roofs
  • Native and endemic trees and shrubs
  • Second container
  • Walkways
Skills: Law & Politics, Planning & Management, PR & Marketing, Financial advice
Villas Pesqueras in PR are property of the Ag Dept and they lease them to fishers associations. A new legal mechanism will have to be developed since the Ag Dept has no intention of exercising their responsibility of re-building the Villa in Crash Boat |  The coasts in PR are at risk since they are a paradise (very lucrative one)- locally called displacement by design | Legal mechanisms must be developed in order for boricuas to remain in our coasts | Support with NOAA, FEMA and similar federal and non federal grants | We need to raise awareness in the general public about the risks that fishermen are facing due to displacement and climate change- Strategy under progress- support is a must.
Stuff: Equipment & tools, Materials
Materials such as wood, corrugated pvc, structural steel (bases for walkways, roofs and greenhouse structure), concrete (for footings) native and endemic trees and shrubs, greenhouse equipment (wheelbarrows, composting bin, water management, pots) will be needed.  Welding tools and basic power tools such as drills, hammers, sanders.
Currently we have an estimate of 50% of the workforce that will be in charge of the construction and landscape management for the first phase of the project. We need to engage the other half. Construction process will be participatory as well. Fishers are the builders of the wooden yola aguadillana, having the building skills necessary for the construction of the connecting walkways and roofed areas. Nature based solutions as climate change adaptation will be implemented with volunteers and locals. In both cases, construction, planting and maintenance, long-term brigade leadership will need to be recruited. 
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