Alejandro Echeverri

Director of URBAM, Center for Urban and Environmental Studies. EAFIT University. Medellín. Colombia

'Social Resilient Urbanism in Medellin: Spatial justice in an emergent context'

August 16, 2017
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Our recent experience of urban and social transformation (achieved and ongoing) that has taken place in Medellín, Colombia, in the last years has allowed us not only to experiment within the different disciplinary core of urbanism, architecture and landscape, but also as a way to create practical tools and scopes to deal with urban and social affairs within politics. Most of this operation has taken place in marginalized neighborhoods, with the objective of making viable a more sustainable model of performance from a social and physical-environmental perspective.

The Medellin city was still largely defined through its major topographic elements, stream corridors along the ravines (quebradas), and the surrounding slopes of the laderas, these elements were greatly compromised. The ladera, despite successful upgrades in some communities, was still experiencing uncontrolled growth into increasingly precarious sites in risk areas. Unsustainable by definition, this sort of urban spillover is even more untenable in Medellín’s surrounding mountains, are at high risk for landslides. As well as a priceless natural heritage, these areas and its waters are essential for the wellbeing of the city.

Alejandro will talk about two strategies for this areas of Medellín: Social Urbanism implemented from the government  between the years 2004-2011, to restore dignity to the most common itineraries of daily life and to use them as a chained sequence of actions and programs. And Shifting Ground, and ongoing research and process for a sustainable habitat in the slopes of the City.

Alejandro is a Colombian architect born in Medellin. He believes that every designer has an ethical responsibility in contributing towards a better society. He has led multidisciplinary teams whose work focuses in emergent territories that present high informality, exclusion and inequity, immersed in complex and unstable realities. His interest includes development of processes through innovation by connecting stakeholders – governments, institutions and the community, in architectural and urban projects. Hence, creating a flexible and holistic ecosystem in projects which form the backbone of social, and territorial development.

Between 2004 to 2008, as general manager of the Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano and then as the city’s director of urban projects, he led the Social Urbanism strategy to improve the most impoverished neighborhoods, with the support and partnership of the city’s mayor Sergio Fajardo, making Medellin a blueprint for the future for other distressed cities worldwide.

Alejandro has been the Head Founder and Director of URBAM since 2010, the Center for Urban and Environmental Studies of EAFIT University. URBAM delves into the urban, environmental and social issues of emerging developing countries, particularly those with weak political and institutional structures, and currently is involved in an ongoing collaboration projects with the Action Cities Network.

He is a Loeb Fellowship from Harvard, and is also active in design through his studio, Alejandro Echeverri + Valencia Arquitectos, focusing on projects with low environmental impact.

His work has earned the Colombian National Architectural Award SCA in 1996, the Pan-American Biennale in Urban Design Award 2008, the Curry Stone Design Prize in 2009, the 10th Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design from Harvard in 2013, The Obayashi Prize 2016 among others.