Infrastructure in Medellín

Slums, Comunas, Favelas, Bidonvilles, Chabolas, Correas, Barracas, Kampung, Morros, Squatters or Shanty Towns, just to name a few, are the physical manifestation of informality: a geography that results from the lack of capacity of city managers to effectively respond to the huge migration, speed of occupation, and lack of means of rural newcomers.

While informality is not new, what is remarkable about today’s era is both the speed and scale of the process as well as the growth in inequalities between formal and informal settlers. For these reasons many think that together with climate change, informality is one of the most pressing problems to be tackled by urban thinkers and designers in our century in the Global South. It is expected that up to five billion people will be living in urban areas by 2030.

The Medellín approach to informal settlements has been celebrated as one of the best models in the world. A strong social, political and design vision were able to transform a former world murder capital into a fairly good place to live in the last two decades. The overall goal of the Medellín Studio was to take the Manatiales de Paz neighborhood as a case study for research and action which let you discover firsthand the process and form of fast informal urbanization as well as its consequences.

The studio was a collaboration between MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning, the School of Architecture and Planning at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellín, Board of Manantiales de Paz in the Municipality of Bello, and the community.

The students visited Medellín on an initial workshop, touring the urban projects in informal settlements and meeting with community partners in the city: Peers at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellín, the municipality of Bello, and the Manantiales de Paz board. This environment enabled students to generate quick ideas and strategies that directed their future investigations. Through photographs, video-recordings, lectures, interviews, city walks, site visits and informative conversations with faculty, public officials and professionals of city making, students were able to start gathering knowledge on urban synergies and successful projects on the city; they were able to learn from the MdP board the goals and projects of the community, and with their own interests choose within the different lines of investigation that continued to be researched through mapping and design when back at MIT.

Work continued during the semester both in Medellín, Colombia and in Cambridge, MA. The Colombian academic counterparts visited Cambridge where advance ideas on the proposals were presented to the broad SA+P community to get feedback. At the end of the semester, a final document with the students work was compiled and delivered to the community partner and the municipality of Bello.