Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia, has been a major industrial hub, a financial nexus, and the center of a booming legal export trade in coffee, gold and textiles, where many ambitious rural migrants once fulfilled the dream of social and economic mobility.
Accodring the Wikipedia, Medellín has an area of 382 km² (237 square miles). It has 16 comunas (districts), 5 corregimientos (townships), and 271 barrios. The metropolitan area of Medellín lies within the Aburrá valley at an elevation of 1,500 meters (about 4921 feet) and is bisected by the Medellín River (also called Porce), which flows northward.
My first day here was a busy one but a very informative one as well. I was able to meet with the planners and architects of the “Habitat” program (a hybrid between architecture, urbanism, sociology, anthropology, geography) in the Universidad Nacional (the largest public university system in Colombia), as well as a community organization called Conviamos (www.convivamos.org). In this manner, I was able to get a good overview of the city’s growth and developments, specifics on certain projects that I should look at, and most importantly secure contacts for my site visits (thanks to Convivamos) since most of the areas I will be focusing on are still quite vulnerable and dangerous (due to the links with paramilitaries, drug dealers, and local gangs). In the agenda are the following:
–The network of “library parks”. These are libraries that place a large emphasis on public space and are in most part, located in some of the city’s most depressed neighborhoods. There are 5 library parks total at the moment, 2 are in construction, and 3 more on being planned. These libraries are part of former mayor, Sergio Fajardo, strategy/policy: “Medellin, the most educated” ( Medellin, la mas educada)
-The Metro Cable: Part of the metro, this gondola system links some of the most difficult (the great majority illegal) sites in the city. The MetroCable usually works in conjunction with public space interventions and some of the other large interventions ( for example, the Library Park Spain in Santo Domingo Savio)
-“Quality Schools” ( colegios de calidad), as they area called in marginalized communities. Also part of the strategies to bring culture and education ot the city.
–The restoration and amelioration Moravia, an informal settlement located on one of the largest dumpsters in the city (1 500 000 cubic meters of garbage!).
–Quebrada Juan Bobo, Reconfiguration (with an emphasis on housing) of the informal settlement surrounding the Juan Bobo creek.
–Pajarito: Area that is being developed by the municipality emphasizing social housing (many high rise buildings from what I have been able to see).
A little history on the city and some projects descriptions soon to come!