Building community and playgrounds in Central New York. A story in the local newspaper and video.
Archive for May, 2012
Medellín, Columbia, a city once known for catastrophic levels of drug violence and now considered by many to be “reborn,” was the subject of an article in the New York Times yesterday. New public architecture, infrastructure, and public space are noticeable drivers of change in this city, and the author, Michael Kimmelman, describes the physical changes and illustrates them with a slideshow. Kimmelman also calls our attention to an essential fact of urban renaissance – there has to be a mechanism for financing it. Medellín has a vehicle for transformation that no U.S. Rust Belt city has.
Medellín, by contrast [with Bogotá, a city now struggling to maintain its achievements], still counts on an almost fierce parochial pride, a legacy of decent Modernist architecture dating back to the 1930s, a cadre of young architects being aggressively nurtured and promoted, and a commitment by local businesses to improve social welfare that begins with the city’s biggest business: its state-owned utilities company, E.P.M.
You can’t begin to grasp Medellín’s architectural renaissance without understanding the role of E.P.M., the Empresas Públicas de Medellín, which supplies water, gas, sanitation, telecommunications and electricity. It’s constitutionally mandated to provide clean water and electricity even to houses in the city’s illegal slums, so that unlike in Bogotá, where the worst barrios lack basic amenities, in Medellín there’s a safety net.
More than that, E.P.M.’s profits (some $450 million a year) go directly to building new schools, public plazas, the metro and parks. One of the most beautiful public squares in the middle of Medellín was donated by E.P.M. And atop the slums of the city’s Northeast district, E.P.M. paid for a park in the mountaintop jungle, linked to the district by its own cable car.
Federico Restrepo used to run E.P.M., before he became the city planner under Mr. Fajardo. “We took a view that everything is interconnected — education, culture, libraries, safety, public spaces,” he told me, pointing out that while fewer than 20 percent of public school students here used to test at the national average in 2002, by 2009 the number exceeded 80 percent.
“Obviously it’s not just that we built and renovated schools,” he said. “You have to work on the quality of teaching and nutrition in conjunction with architecture. But the larger point is that the goal of government should be providing rich and poor with the same quality education, transportation and public architecture. In that way you increase the sense of ownership.”
How to re-engage after a month of few blog posts due to the rush of the academic year semester schedule? I’m checking back with some of my favorite blogs to see what I have missed. Notable posts below.
- Flowing Data’s posts, here and here, on the political threat to the American Community Survey.
- Interactive data visualization by Maya Lin on the global loss of biodiversity, also noted in a Flowing Data post.
- On the Landscape Visualization blog, there is news that Trimble is buying Sketchup from Google.
- Planetizen has only one article about bicycles on its main page! But plenty on transportation in general and the requisite Richard Florida take on cities.
- Planetizen references an interesting Globe and Mail article on what Planetizen describes as “peak people” and the call for policy to increase immigration. And there’s an article on Medellin, Columbia, the surprising turn-around city where the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) conference will be held in October.
- And, only one more for now (that Medellin article is distracting me) – the Pruned blog calls our attention to this: