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June 5, 2019 | Alumni

"I had to do something": U of T urban design grad helps Ecuador hometown rebuild after earthquake

By Lisa Lightbourn

Gabriela Luna Vélez gestures while talking in front of a display of architectural drawings.

In 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Ecuador, destroying vast swaths of Gabriela Luna Vélez’s hometown of Manta. Now, Vélez (MArch 2019), who is graduating from the University of Toronto's urban design master's program in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, wants to play a part in rebuilding her city, particularly the waterfront neighbourhood of Tarqui. 

"When it happened, I decided I had to do something about it," says Vélez. 

For her thesis project, she proposed a plan to rebuild Tarqui, taking into account the history and culture of the neighbourhood and its vulnerability to natural disasters. She will be presenting her plan to Manta city officials. 

"With the knowledge that I got from U of T, I think that I can really help my country," she says. Watch her story.

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In light of the current situation, in-person events in May (including Alumni Reunion events) have been postponed or cancelled. Looking for online events and resources for alumni while staying home? Visit the online #StayHome hub. Have questions? Contact us.