In November 2016 Colombian Government and a guerrilla rebel group FARC signed peace accords which started a process of ending more than 50- year long lasting armed conflict, which resulted in people being killed and millions being displaced. This became one of the biggest modern world sociopolitical achievements.
The Colombian conflict is very complex and roots back to civil war 1948 - 1958 called ’La Violencia’ which started with assassination of a popular politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. This divided country into conservative government of Colombia against rural socialist liberals who eventually became rebel armed forces called FARC. FARC participated in extortion, kidnapping and drug trafficking to fund their operations.
After the piece deal is signed Colombian government promised to incorporate FARC into Colombian government in return FARC promised to disarm, slow down involvement in drug trafficking, address abuses of human rights over last 5 decades.
Colombia is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world and therefore possesses a rich cultural heritage. Its territory encompasses Amazon forest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines which indicates rich and diverse flora and fauna.
At the moment Colombia is hosting almost 50 million people of which almost 80% live in urban areas. Interestingly, most of the people that live in urban areas are located in only 4 urban centres: Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla. This made me wonder why there is such a tendency to move to overcrowded cities when you got all this land available.
4 metropolitan centres host more than 40% of Colombian population. It is mostly due to ongoing Colombian conflict.
Guerrilla groups are controlling many rural areas, people are being forced to leave their home and establish themselves and their families in urban areas.
This explains the pattern of increasing numbers in urbanization. At the moment victims of the conflict represent at least 14% of Colombian population. However, in reality nearly everyone in the country has been touched by the crisis in one way or another.
Since it is expected urbanization levels to increase, it is crucial to understand what kind of people are moving to the cities and what kind of conditions they start living in once settled. More than half of IDP live in poverty, which is no surprise considering what they have to go though. We have got people that suffered physical & mental abuse. People who have lost their land and home. People who have been forced to flee and who have no skillset to live in urban environment, and there are many of them in this situation. Also, a person from rural environment has completely different mentality and lifestyle compared to a person who was born and lived in urban context all his life. This makes integration process more difficult.
However, the displacement growth does not stop there. Even after the peace deal there are 15 000 IDP being registered every month, which means it’s a still ongoing problem and it needs to be solved.
Demographical predictions for future indicate that by 2030 Colombia will host more than 53 million people. And with current urbanisation and displacement rates the urbanization level will reach almost 97% by 2050. This indicates potential problems for Colombia’s urban centres like Bogota, Medellin and etc.
There is a need for a holistic and robust city planning and design, that provides adaptable solutions suitable for population’s growth.
Displacement of people from rural areas had a strong affect to Colombia’s economy. Since one of the main economies in rural areas is farming most of the IDP used to do that too. Now when they are displaced to urban zones, there is a lack of farmers and therefore the food prices increase. This affects IDP even more since it’s harder for them to survive once they establish themselves in an urban area.
Because of no budget and lack of skillset to survive in the city big part of IDP turn into drug trafficking, violence and crimes. Which creates a bad reputation for IDP. Thus, communities that have high number IDP lose public attractiveness and interest, therefore lose support and investments. As a result, areas start decaying, community’s transparency decreases and crime increases.
Because of the amount of people and it’s sprawl it is difficult for governing bodies to tackle many issues that people in different communities face, not to mention gathering funding for regeneration process. That is why project ’Microcircuits’ focuses on strengthening the role of the community within urban design and planning process. Rather than relying on municipality and external funding, project focuses on creating self-sustaining community that tackles and solves problems by itself.
Work with the river
Clean water is essential to the site. People use river water for cooking, washing clothes and sanitary purposes. It is important that redevelopment of the area starts with providing residents with clean water.
The western part of the site which doesn’t have any residents and tends to flood should be transformed into a wetland, that also works as a remediation mechanism for the water. The polluted water that comes down the stream should get partially cleaned before reaching residential area. The span of the performative landscape towards north-west would vary between 1 - 1.5 km. The water stream is also being divided into 2 streams. The main stream - flows down the valley, and secondary stream is slowly going through water remediation zones and gets collected at the main water reservoir at the beginning of the residential zone.
Dedicate land for production
One of the skills IDP have in common is agriculture. Microcircuits concept aims to allow IDP use that skill in urban environments. The idea is to make community as much self-sustaining when it comes not only for water, but also building materials, food & clothing. We achieve this idea by dedicating land between Laureles main street and river for production, so that the local residents can use this land for producing natural materials.
Maximize the land. Educate and showcase
In order to make production zone more effective, it should be maximized in expense of 2 car lanes of the main street separating Robledo and Laureles. Also, the access points to the site are reduced for cars and become pedestrianized. National Colombia University is located right next to the site; therefore, they are directly affected with the development of the site. Instead of enclosing themselves from the site, University should allow use their vast green areas for production too. In exchange their campus could be potentially more integrated and even become a part of the residential site.
Restructure and connect
Next step is to improve pedestrian and cyclist connection between two sides of the river. at the same time restructure the built environment around existing central street and structures bordering the hill. At both ends the site will allocate morning and evening plazas that are linked to marketplaces located onto 2 bridges. This strategic move not only starts connecting 2 different sides of the river but also indicates connection between Robledo and Laureles communas.
Smart block division and secondary paths
The internal site paths connect to the paths around the site. The connections become active meeting spaces for residents and public. This represents that physical barrier between the communas is being eliminated and the project site is becoming more integrated into the context. The central street works as the main commercial street connecting both ends of the site. Spaces in-between the blocks are for public activities and will include more mixed-use functions.
Developed scheme for 'Villa de Iguana'
Blocks becoming courtyard developments having public use around and private or semi-private inside the courtyards. The development also takes further into the southern part of the university campus. This potentially could serve student housing and rentable residential unit demand. Also, this would increase diversity of people in the area and reduce social division. The new development should be designed in respect to current site characteristics, typologies and economic realities.
Strengthen 'Laureles' grid
After the site is developed, the vision of the area would be strengthening Laureles grid with structures that represent both - the new development of the site and the planned Laureles typology.
The scale of buildings grows gradually from the river (where the smallest structures are allocated - 1 to 2 story) to the main street (where the tallest buildings were placed). The main street consists of 3-5 story structures where most of the ground floor units are mainly non-residential.
The block is framed with rebuilt semi-public pedestrian path on the river side and the main street on the north side of the block. The centre of the block is a private courtyard used by the residents living in the block. The courtyard consists of a green space that could be used in multi-purposely depending on resident’s needs.
The spaces in-between the blocks work as public gathering places and include public activities as well as commercial units on the ground floors. The diagram also indicates the built structures and spaces in relationship to topography, river and pedestrian paths on the south side of the site.
The regenerated site will be framed by the hill on the North, greenery on the South and 2 plazas on the Eastern and Western ends of the site. The identity of both plazas should link back to the typical Spanish Colonial plaza characteristics.
Staging of the project should start with building new structures on the north-eastern side of the site. The new part of development should provide 250 flats able to host around 80 relocated families from the marked zones.
In addition to that some of the flats will be used as student accommodation for the students of National Colombian University and University of Anitoqua. The rest of the apartments should be mainly rentable.
After the first stage is processed following relocation process will take place starting with the Eastern side and continuing toward the West.
Stages 2, 3, 4 and 5 will relocate around 60 families during each stage as well as allocating structures for offices, other rental apartments, educational, cultural and healthcare units.
Stage 6 is the final stage of the project, which is about strengthening Laureles grid.
The new structure on the other side of the highway should relate to both: old Laureles building typology and newly redeveloped Robledo side.