The 7th World Urban Forum (WUF7) held in Medellín during April 2014 was attended by a record 22,000 people. The city was selected as host since it successfully introduced and implemented an approach to reducing slum formation in the urban context by alleviating poverty, providing education and improving environmental sustainability.
The Integral Urban Project (IUP) in the north-eastern precinct of Comuna 13 illustrates the city’s exemplary broad scope and its strong contributions to the fulﬁllment of Medellín’s ambitious Millennium Development Goals. During WUF7 the site visits (Medellín Lab Tours) to Comuna 13, formerly described as the city’s most violent neighborhood, showed the efforts to increase social inclusion and the quality of life by creating public space and infrastructure in practice. The installation of public infrastructure including escalators enhances inclusion by giving residents a physical connection to the rest of the city.
Urban transformation builds progress towards sustainable development
At the closing event of WUF7, Mayor of Medellín Anibal Gaviria explained that “ten successive governments have been very supportive of the transformation of Medellín, and I urge other cities that want to achieve similar positive changes to come to us for advice,” he said.
Alluding to the successful intervention against gangs and drug cartels in the region, Governor of Antioquia Sergio Fajardo noted the significant challenges of addressing corruption which undermines and depletes the potential of urban communities. “Corruption is harder to fight than guerrillas,” he said, noting that through determination, the city and regional authorities have seen the image of Medellín and Colombia changed from that of destruction to transformation.
Project receives Green Prize in Urban Design
The Integral Urban Project (IUP) won the Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design in August 2013, together with Eduardo Souto de Moura’s Metro do Porto in Portugal. Established in 1986, the biennial Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design honors two projects that demonstrate the potential for the planning and execution of mobility infrastructure to transform a city and its region through carefully articulated design interventions.
When commenting on the significance of the two prize-winning projects, jury member Michael Sorkin stated: “If there are lessons to be drawn for urban design from Medellín and Porto, I think the broader lesson has to do with the disruption of the segregation of the disciplines in the design field. Historically we have understood that Landscape Architecture sits in one place, Architecture in another, and Urban Design and Planning [in another, with all three disciplines] in constant conflict about their territorial rights. One of the things that is revolutionary about the Medellín project is that distinguishing among the disciplines is no longer possible.”See more
The Integral Urban Project (IUP) continues to be implemented at Comuna 13 in Medellín’s north-east. The recently-constructed system of escalators with public squares and balconies addresses serious problems regarding connectivity, security and coexistence. In addition, more than ten public buildings have been completed which provide infrastructure and important spaces for meeting and building social cohesion.
Just a few years ago, the huge informal settlement of Comuna 13 spanning some 700 hectares and home to 150,000 inhabitants was an urban crisis zone. Integral Urban Projects (IUPs) in other informal settlements of the city had demonstrated how the recovery of public space improves quality of life in disadvantaged areas.
A land use and infrastructure plan was developed and discussed with the local community, where needs were further understood through consultation. “The years of violence forced us to retreat and forget about the importance of public buildings and spaces,” explains project author Gustavo Restrepo. “Today we experience a revival of interest in sharing within society.”
The recently-constructed system of escalators with public squares and balconies addresses serious problems regarding connectivity, security and coexistence. The USD 6.7million project rises almost 400 meters – the equivalent of a 28-storey building – and will serve 12,000 inhabitants. The free outdoor escalators cut down locals’ commute time into town from 36 minutes to just six.
More than ten public buildings have been completed which provide infrastructure and important spaces for meeting and building social cohesion. One of the new buildings is a library by Colombian architect Giancarlo Mazzanti which features green areas. Other projects include community meeting rooms, music rooms, new homes and schools, a theater, business development center and auditoriums.
The sub-project which generates the most excitement is the innovative public transport system Metrocable, which connects the settlements on the hills with the subway and the formal city in the valley below. Comuna 13’s Metrocable line, a gondola lift system implemented by the City Council of Medellín, was opened in January 2008. Gondolas for up to eight occupants transport around 40,000 people every day.
The concept was focused on the principle of creating the most valued public buildings – whether libraries, schools, concert halls, or museums – in the poorest quarters. The intent was to create public spaces in the slums and repair the social fabric of the community. “For the poorest, only the best is good enough, for example, schools with the high quality of private institutions,” says the architect.
Medellín has one of the most ambitious urban renewal plans in Latin America – a process that has taken decades to be implemented, but is yielding results and earning the city international recognition. Since the project commenced, data has shown that residential and public space per capita are now rising while homicides have dramatically decreased – and people have started to use public places again.See more
An urban planning project for a commune in Medellín, Colombia developed by Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano received the top prize of USD 100,000 and the Holcim Awards Gold 2008 trophy for delivering a ground-breaking and comprehensive approach to address slum formation in cities. The overall scope of the project led by Gustavo Adolfo Restrepo includes the refurbishment and extension of the road network and public utilities, construction of numerous health, education, and sports facilities and implementation of social development programs.
Head of Jury and Dean of Architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA) in Mexico City, José Luis Cortés, commented that the pre-existing MetroCable connecting the informal settlement with the formal city was the catalyst for the approach. “This project complements the effort of available social investment by developing along the MetroCable a range of programs for the regeneration of the area through self-responsibility, community participation and inter-institutional coordination. It is, in short, exemplary in its contribution to reaching the Millennium Development Goals,” he said.Media release – Holcim Awards honor sustainable construction in Latin America » Más información (Spanish) » Leia mais (Portuguese) »
The unique strength of this project lies in its comprehensive and ground-breaking approach to the reduction of the worldwide problem of slum formation in the urban context through eradicating poverty, providing education and improving environmental sustainability. The already existing MetroCable connecting this huge squatter settlement with the formal city of Medellín was the catalyst of this project. The overall scope of the project includes the refurbishment and extension of the road network and the public utilities, the construction of numerous health, education, and sports facilities and also the implementation of social development programs.
The main development strategy aims to strengthen self-responsibility, community participation and inter-institutional coordination. The project beneﬁts from generous ﬁnancial and technical support by governmental authorities and various NGOs. Multidisciplinary in all its phases with involvement at all scales, this is a very strong and comprehensive project inducing urban transformation and bringing dignity to the residents. Although this project is the last phase of a larger endeavor with parts already completed the jury has commended it due to its exemplary broad scope and its strong contributions to the fulﬁllment of the Millennium Development Goals.See more
Just a few years ago the city of Medellín was considered a center of violence and criminal activity. Now a fairytale transformation stands in its place. One of the catalysts for change is the project Urban integration of an informal area. Numerous measures and many stakeholders are involved in ensuring that the poorest receive only the best in infrastructure.Download project entry poster (PDF, 3.31 MB) »
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