Biennale Architettura 2016 - International Exhibition

Biennale Architettura 2016 - International Exhibition
Venezia, Italy

Part of the merit of the Colombian case is the generosity and political intelligence to understand that significant changes in cities occur in lapses of time that are much longer than those usually accorded to political administrations. Breaking the historical logic of politics (where alternating power means interrupting previously defined projects), Medellín is an example of civic will, in the sense that, regardless of political color, authorities have accepted to come together and give continuity to the action of previous administrations. Colombia, and in particular Medellín, have offered an outstanding example of the social transformations that can be brought about in a city and in the most difficult of all circumstances—violence, drug dealing, and inequality.
Medellín has seen a series of mayors with a vision that refuses to contradict the previous mandate and that assumes that further actions can be added to those of preceding mayors. Also, EPM, a state owned services company, operates with the efficiency of a private company but with the mandate to foster the public good instead of private benefits or profits. They know that the scarcest resource in cities is not money but coordination, so at a centralized level they are able to implement rather sophisticated actions for the benefit of the community.
In a meeting, the mayor and the director of EPM were trying to tackle the issue of safety and violence in the city. The most dangerous areas of the city were the darker, less illuminated areas identified in a night aerial view of Medellín. Those dark areas happened to be the city’s water cistern network. For security reasons (fear of terrorist attacks or poisoning of the water), these areas were entirely disconnected from the neighborhoods where they were inserted. The political and technical decision was to reverse their isolation by transforming them into public spaces, with all the risks that such an operation entailed for the city. This project is exemplary for two main reasons. Firstly, it deals directly with one of the scarcest and most valuable of resources: water. Since water in a city is conceived as a system, whatever is done with water in a city will impact the entire city. Secondly, it overlaps with concerns regarding what will probably be a key element in the future of cities: the redistributive nature of public space.


  • Title: WATER TANKS
  • Rights: Photo by Andrea Avezzù; Courtesy: la Biennale di Venezia, With the support of EPM - CEO Jorge Londono De La Cuesta

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