Medellin, the second biggest city of Colombia is the world example of urbanism. A city twenty years ago was the most dangerous due to the drug cartel headed by Pablo Escobar has gone through rapid transformation, with huge amounts of money and support from the government, pouring into infrastructure and transportation to open up  public space, making them safer.

The most iconic structures include the metrocable, a gondola system at the hillside slum areas to connect the lowest-income community with the rest of the city. Public libraries of impressive architectural features have also been built in the most disadvantaged neighorhoods, offering people a chance to access information, and as a safe place to spend time. Many parks with interesting features have also been opened to provide a refuge for the 2.4 million inhabitants in the city.

Voted the “Most Innovative City” by the Urban City Institute/Wall Street Journal, the UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum held here in April. Some call it architectural socialism, others social urbanism, there are numerous books and articles on the topic, university courses here on this.

On top of the city’s transformation to become safer and more open, there has also been efforts to make it more green and sustainable. Located in a valley, over 70% of the city is green.

For my interest to explore how cities can be better designed for people, I have come to Colombia, in particular Medellin, to learn about this case, and to experience this for myself. After getting a good understanding, I hope to potentially use this new, agile backdrop to appropriate urban intervention and participatory art fitting the local context. I believe that these are useful for me to think of different ways to improve other cities in the future.

I will speak to various people in different urbanism groups: urbanism think tank La Ciudad Verde, the city’s innovation agency RutaN, EAFIT university’s URBAM, the urban studies department, ACI, the city’s cooperation agency; and visit various locations to get an in-depth understanding. Will also be visiting various parks, transportation and libraries which are the key urbanism project sites.


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