July 7, 2010
by: Umberto Dindo AIA

Event: Colombian Architecture for Education, Bogotá and Medellin: A Tale of Two Cities
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.08.10
Speakers: Fernando Villa, AIA, LEED AP — Senior Associate, Magnusson Architecture & Planning (NY); Winka Dubbeldam — Principal, Archi-Tectonics (NY); Carlos Pardo — Principal, obranegra ARQUITECTOS (Medellin); Juan Manuel Pelaez — Architect (Medellin); Eduardo Samper Martinez — Architect & Director of Architecture, National University in Bogotá; Beth Broome — Managing Editor, Architectural Record
Organizers: AIANY Committee on Architecture for Education


Giancarlo Mazzanti’ Biblioteca España on top of the hill in Medellin (left); Santo Domingo Savio Derka School by Carlos Pardo.

Photo by Sergio Gomez (left); photo by Jab Visual JoséAlfredo Betancur

“Colombia’s ability to shift its image from a country riddled with violence and crime to one of innovation and optimism is remarkable,” stated Beth Broome, managing editor of Architectural Record. “It is a clear demonstration of the power of urban design and architecture… to drive social transformation.”

Medellin is a poignant example of how educational buildings can be a catalyst for building communities with its public structures. Built in the midst of socially fragile neighborhoods, the city identifies with and gains social cohesion from facilities that provide education and use for the young and adults alike. For example, the public library, Biblioteca España, designed by Giancarlo Mazzanti, is accessed by a network of cable cars (free of charge) that transport inhabitants through the valley, up the hills, and to the city’s poor shanty neighborhoods where the library resides. It is the pride and meeting place of its poor residents, stated Fernando Villa, AIA, LEED AP, of Magnusson Architecture & Planning.

The library and schools are part of a plan embarked upon in 2004 by then Mayor Sergio Fajardo. He called the plan “Medellin, the best educated.” The idea to combat social inequality and violence through a master plan of infrastructure and various programs connected with quality education and social urban planning aims to bring stability and hope to Medellin’s poor neighborhoods. It also engages the new generation of architects, as a new law requires public projects to be determined through design competitions.

Two schools that have helped integrate education with urban life in Medellin are Carlos Pardo’s Santo Domingo Savio Derka School and Juan Manuel Pelaez’s Colegio Las Mercedes. Pardo’s school is built on a steep hillside, so the school’s roof is used as a public park. This “inhabitable geography” relates to the landscape in a similar way to the terraces of the neighborhood houses. Pelaez used much of the site of his school, including some of the roofs, for public access, as well, creating a civic center.

The AIANY Committee on Architecture for Education (AIANY/CAE) staged this event in its tradition of showcasing local and international educational facilities and programs that identify schools as community centers.

Umberto Dindo, AIA, is the principal of Dindo Architect, the co-chair of the AIANY Education Committee, and AIANY Secretary.


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