Integrated with the Metro Systems of Caracas—the public transit system provided in the “formal” city—the Caracas Metro Cable is 2.1 km in length and employs gondolas that hold eight passengers each. The total capacity of the system allows for the movement of 1,200 people per hour in each direction. Of its five stations, two are in the valley and connect directly with the existing public transit system; three additional stations are located along the mountain ridge on sites that meet the demands of community access, established pedestrian circulation routes, and suitability for construction with minimal demolition of existing housing.
The barrio-dwellers of San Agustín and of the rest of Caracas’s informal city live officially off-the-grid, though they can and do “borrow” power from municipal lines. The heavy rains notwithstanding, there is no supply of potable water. And residents make extensive use of recycling in the construction of their homes. Thus, all of U-TT’s work in the Caracas barrios rests on the fundamental principle of sustainability. No project is of any value to barrio-dwellers if it relies upon resources beyond their means or reach or depends for its completion and operation on promises of future assistance. Moreover, key features of sustainability are at the heart of the community’s culture and way of life, making it vital for a project that has arisen from the community’s will.
The entire system is designed on modular principles, effectively a kit-of-parts, using pre-fabricated components. The stations, essentially shed buildings, are inexpensive to manufacture and erect, producing economies of scale and meeting the functional and aesthetic objectives. Critically, the structural and architectural design enables simple, low-cost, and rapid alteration and expansion of each station, to adapt to future needs and objectives. In this, as in other features, the U-TT design team borrowed from the organic nature of the barrio itself, a process of unending growth and change, of potential and accommodation.
In addition to minimizing the impact on the built environment, elevating the stations above ground serves significant climatic and geographic purposes. Air-flow at pedestrian level is preserved, and adjacent homes continue to benefit from the cleansing and cooling effects of the prevailing winds. Erosion from the typically heavy annual rains is minimized, protecting the station structures themselves as well as the surroundings. And the stilt-like legs greatly simplify compliance with seismic requirements. Additionally, the structural support for the platforms and cable car system is independent of that for the station shell, which is thus unaffected by the inevitable vibrations from system operations and pedestrian movement.
The primary materials used in the construction of Caracas MetroCable are steel and concrete – very durable, appropriate to climatic conditions, and requiring little if any maintenance and repair. The stations are skinned with corrugated steel sheets, fiberglass cladding, and a factory-applied gel coat that resists delamination[AL1]. The platforms and footings are concrete and connected with steel columns. The woven wire screening ramps and pedestrian bridges will, in time, support indigenous vines, providing shade and softening the hardscape.