Historic relationship between urban dwellers and the Tomebamba River

Pablo Osorio

Mateo Neira

M. Augusta Hermida

ABSTRACT: Accessibility to water sources has played a decisive role in the location and growth of human settlements, fulfilling a key role in the historical development of cities, as in the case of Cuenca, where the Tomebamba River defined its foundation place. Recent urban development has weakened the relation between cities and their rivers, and it is urgent to rediscover the potential of rivers and their banks in the urban fabric, not only as generators of urban biodiversity, but as a public space that contributes to social resilience and builds urban identities. This paper studies the historic relationship between urban dwellers and the river, in 1.5km of the Tomebamba River that runs in front of the Historical Centre of Cuenca, through uses and perceptions of its users. A series of semistructured interviews were explored using discourse analysis, word frequency, and spatial visualization, to reveal perceptions associated with places and space morphologies, and how they have changed through time. The results shows that historical use of this city place was related to production and leisure, having a strong relation to the river as a water source, whereas now production is no longer related to the river; instead, newcomers have occupied the space, promoting new uses in the river margins, having little to no relation with the water, modifying landscape perceptions and building new urban identities.

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