City spotlight: Medellin

Colombia has caught the eye once again of the world’s urban regenerationists, with Medellin beckoning as the newest piece de resistance. Once a serious contender for the title of world’s most dangerous city, the capital of Colombia’s Antioquia state, with a population of 2.2 million, has actually become livable again, with stunning architectural and infrastructure projects that are making life better for even the poorest of barrios.

The Santo-Domingo-Savio neighbourhood used to be one of the city’s worst slums. While it still battles gang violence, residents can now access a modern cable-car system and a 1,300ft set of outdoor, covered escalators which link the area to the city’s metro network.

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The modernistic Santo Domingo Library, designed by architect Giancarlo Mazzanti in 2011 and located in one of the city’s poorerst areas , is part of the urban social integration programme laid out by various mayors. Current mayor Anibal Gaviria says: “The idea has been to bring institutions closer to citizens.”

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The efforts to transform the city and integrate slums have not gone unnoticed, as Medellin has followed its rival Bogota in winning international recognition. In 2013 the city won a Wall Street Journal award for Innovative City of the Year, and in 2014 Medellin was named one of the first of the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities project.

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Above: Medellin’s futuristic botanical gardens with a “floating awning”, fitting for the city of eternal spring.

Below: Plaza Botero and the country’s only subway system, partly overground.

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Above: Before and after a neighbourhood regeneration scheme.

The future: In 2013 Medellin held an international contest for the design of a vast park (to be named Medellin MegaPark) which will line the banks of the Medellín River and cut through city, spanning more than 1,047 acres.

Medellin mayor Aníbal Gaviria Correa said: “Without at doubt this will be one of the biggest and most transcendental projects for the present and the future of our city.”

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