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As the capital C in CIVETS, the group of emerging economies singled out for stellar growth in the coming decade, Colombia has put much of its violent and painful past behind it.
A new more confident country is shaping up for a brighter future reflected in ever more ambitious architecture. Travelling around Colombia over the last ten years it has been notable the advances being made in its urban fabric.
With security concerns moving down the agenda, education has been allowed to take centre stage in a new discourse propelled by thought-provoking architects like Giancarlo Mazzanti, Daniel Bonilla and Felipe Uribe de Bedout.
The country’s most compelling work is being commissioned by institutions at both ends of the learning curve, from exclusive universities going head-to-head to brighten up their campuses to schools in the poorest of neighbourhoods.
Freed from the overpowering influence of the great master, Rogelio Salmona – who died in 2007 – modern designs have moved away from the red brick and ochre cement used by him to shape the capital’s vernacular for over half a century.
Much of this new architecture borrows heavily from other international trends, something that has raised heavy criticisms in some circles, but what is important that the country is moving into a new bold era, opening up a debate about what is good architecture?
The city’s altogether more colourful contemporary palette may not be to everyone’s liking but it strikes a chord with the upbeat vision of a country with a brilliant future ahead of it.
Filling the void left by Salmona has not been easy, however, and renowned international architects have been called on to contribute to the country’s impressive image makeover.
Foster + Partners, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Steven Holl, Alonso Balaguer and Herreros Arquitectos have all been asked to play their part by drawing up a string of landmark buildings that will light up the capital’s skyline in the next three years.
The new Nogal Faculty of the EAN University has all the hallmarks of the striking educational interventions that have made its architect Daniel Bonilla so popular with universities and schools trying to gain the attention of Bogotá’s wealthiest students.
Its green brise soleils and protruding windows have drawn comparisons with Agence Bernard Buhler’s colourful mixed use building in Bordeaux, Arc-en-Ciel.
Photographs courtesy of UdeB Arquitectos
A centipede, a pre-Colombian tomb and 12 m x 12 m flower arrangements, provide a low-impact, architectural draw for those looking to escape Medellin and submerge themselves in the local wildlife.
Linked to Santo Domingo, one of the city’s most deprived neighbourhoods via a 20-minute cable car trip, Felipe Uribe de Bedout drew up this environmentally sensitive project as an anchor for a 70 sq km nature reserve.
Up to four underground tombs are buried underground for educational conferences and exhibitions. As many as 30 ‘silleteros’ – a traditional form of carrying elaborate flower arrangements – house cafés, toilets, internet access and other functions.
Colombia’s most celebrated contemporary architect, Giancarlo Mazzanti teamed up with philanthropic pop starlet, Shakira, to create the simplest of sports centres in Altos de Cazuca.
Home to approximately 50,000 people, Cazuca is one of Bogotá’s most deprived neighbourhoods.
Shakira’s charity, the Barefoot Foundation and the Spanish Non-Government Organisation, Ayuda en Acción paid for construction.
Photography by Andres Valbuena
Setting the bar in Colombia’s higher educational circles is the ultra-exclusive University of Los Andes. Nestled against the mountains of Bogotá close to the capital’s historic centre, the campus is home to works by a who’s who list of Colombian architects. Upping the ante for its competition, the university has invested heavily in new blocks drawn up by the likes of Daniel Bermudez and Daniel Bonilla in recent years. This plush sports complex drawn up by Felipe Gonzalez-Pacheco’s team has the rest of the city’s universities scrambling around for an architectural response.
One of the smartest young architects in Colombia, Antonio Yemail, working hand-in-hand with his colleagues in the architecture faculty of the Javeriana University and with Spanish collective Zuloark, has been pioneering a grassroots architectural experiment in the small beach town of Palomino in the Guajira.
Selected and developed in conjunction with the local population, students and architects have been working on the construction of small-scale community interventions. The project won the award for best example of urbanism in Colombia’s Architecture Bienal 2012.