Formal and Informal Bogota Workshop

This was an international collaboration between MIT School of Architecture + Planning and three universities in Bogotá, Colombia: the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Universidad de Los Andes and the Universidad de la Salle to envision, plan, and design prototypical criteria and design solutions as relevant proposals for decision makers, the community, institutions and other stakeholders around issues of the forma informal conflict in the area of the Parque Tercer Milenio in Bogotá, Colombia.

The workshop focused on the Parque Tercer Milenio, a large public space built during Mayor Peñalosa’s citywide revitalization plan. This space resulted from the eradication of an extremely dangerous inner-city informal settlement whose residents had occupied in a decaying late 19th - early 20th Century district, located between the historic district of Bogotá, and vacant/underutilized industrial land. The violent removal and demolition of the district to accommodate the park forced its residents to relocate in the adjacent non-consolidated/inactive zones. Despite the political will to tackle a major urban problem, the design efforts and the investment in creating the park, it was still considered a highly problematic area of Bogotá. Students were challenged to develop criteria and specific proposals for the area, addressing issues of connectivity, interaction, security, urban, social interaction/performance, sustainability, transportation and urban equity.

The class objective was to integrate its proposed design solutions both physical intervention and strategic project that dealt with the socio-economic structural issues identified in the area. It did so at multiple scales with an interdisciplinary and international group of students from four universities. Our workshop production was quite varied and students found new and creative ways to understand the area and the role of the park in the future of Bogotá and the adjacent neighborhoods. However, three themes, we found as we worked, were organically common to most projects: the need for a re-design of the park, to address the problematic lack of inclusion of the surrounding community, and to re-define the park not as a leisure space but as an agent of change. In conclusion, the larger academic contribution of this project is that it is possible to re-think the way we develop urban projects in areas that present the challenges of informal occupation of the public space. We can work in ways that go beyond eviction and modernist projects.