The architect who detonated the transformation of Medellín | Culture

For Felipe Uribe de Bedout (Medellin, 1963), the first violent feature of Latin American cities is the categorical annihilation of nature. "The landscape is a fundamental element in the pacification of a society," he maintains in his workshop, a kind of monastery devoted to architecture, nestled in a thick and humid forest in the municipality of El Retiro. His own office in that farm that was once a reforestation favors the state of the soul that is needed to propose city projects, he reflects. Precisely from this idyllic spot, in the middle of streams and guaduales, a good part of the dazzling urban renewal of Medellín was devised that served as an antidote against violence.

The long years in which they lived besieged by bullets and bombs led to paisas to be collected, to be shut up. Medellín, much to its dismay, came to be known as the drug trafficking capital of the world. At the end of the last century, after Pablo Escobar fell down on a roof, the city was struggling to get past that stigma. In just 20 years, it became an example of transformation.

"This was the seed of everything," says Uribe, now in the middle of the Parque de los Pies Descalzos (1999), which he projected together with Ana Elvira Vélez and Giovanna Spera, at the beginning of a tour of some of his most emblematic works. Originally a commission to put a parking lot in order, that square in front of the headquarters of the Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), which encourages users to take off their shoes, became a meeting point for both executives and businessmen. inhabitants the most humble neighborhoods.

Shortly after the commission came to make a modest remodeling of the Planetarium of Medellin, next to the campus of the University of Antioquia and near some of the poorest communes, the focus of the crime that ravaged the city. Uribe proposed a much more ambitious project, with the idea that going to watch the stars or watch movies was an alternative to the spiral of violence. The space, which plays with ramps and inclinations and is complemented by the buildings in which the network of youth orchestras operates, has been aged with exquisiteness. Around him, other symbols of Medellin reinvented, such as the Explora Park or the Orquideorama, have sprung up.

Pies Descalzos and the Park of Desires, with their dream names, changed the way of understanding public space. Some elements of these pioneering projects, such as water jets, natural stones, sand, wood and the detailed work of furniture, became identity features of the city. In the end there was already a clear statement of principles: the public deserves the best quality and the best materials.

Architecture became an important hallmark of Medellin's development. Sergio Fajardo -a mathematician son of an architect- He took the baton during his mayoralty (2004-2007), and with pedestrianizations and parks, the library turned urban planning with a social sense into one of the flags of his administration. The revolution was underway, and an infinity of projects have consolidated the turn in the capital of Antioquia.

Precisely in those years, the Plaza de Cisneros, prelude to the governorship and the mayor's office, had been decades of neglect and decay. There, Uribe built the EPM Library, conceived as an integral project in conjunction with the Parque de las Luces, by Juan Manuel Peláez. The endless ways of sitting and studying inside the library testify to your obsessive attention to detail, furniture and ergonomics. When the sun hides, the building also works like a big lantern. "We had imposed a curfew on ourselves. In a city that had entered into a regime of violence, recovering the night was fundamental, "he recalls.

"He opened our eyes"

"The intelligence and above all the sensitivity of this great architect was what opened our eyes. His works showed that it was possible - transforming the environment - to modify behavior and contribute to the happiness and well-being of ordinary citizens. Few times a physical transformation has contributed so much to an improvement in the psychological sensation of well-being of those who walk and live in the city ", the writer values Hector Abad Faciolince. Without expensive and useless showings, adds the author of The forgetting that we will be, "He knew how to imagine, to see in his head, how a person from Medellin could feel better integrated into our landscape of mountains, our tropical climate of height, and a space that is no longer narrow, narrow, thanks to his interventions. He gave air and beauty to what was narrow, poor and dirty. "

The anthology of his work, a book under the title Host that includes testimonies of his colleagues, will be presented on November 26 in the framework of the Guadalajara Book Fair and on December 1 at Casa Luis Barragán, in Mexico City. "Felipe Uribe is part of a generation of architects who dared to dream, through architecture, a possible city at a time when the very notion of a city (Medellín) seemed impossible in the face of violence and the fear of drug wars" , writes Francisco Sanín in those pages. "Felipe's work has only one purpose: to build open spaces for all and to insert the notion of the collective in our daily life, so that in these fragmented and polarized societies we can find common fabric outside", points out for his part Camilo Restrepo - creator of the Orquideorama and professor at Harvard- in another book dedicated to Uribe de Bedout that presents the seal Arquine.

His name is tied to Medellín, but his convictions about public space can be traced in his nearly 200 projects, such as the two he develops in the Colombian capital together with Gerardo Olave and Andrés Castro. The risky design of the Ad Portas building at the Universidad de la Sábana extends like a hug on the campus, while the University City building links the eastern hills, the Javeriana University and the congested seventh race, in the heart of Bogotá. Also in the civic square of Rionegro, Antioquia - the municipality next to his studio that he wants to turn into an urban planning laboratory - or in his numerous projects in El Salvador, where he set foot long ago. The main lesson of Medellín, he reflects, is that an inclusive city requires exaggerating the opening, knocking down the bars, breaking down the walls. "A good building must remind us that there is nothing more sublime or beautiful than the landscape."


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