October 08 2013

Medellin: How Transportation & Innovation Have Given This Failing City A Chance

Colombia has enjoyed many substantial transformations during the past decade: from an almost failed state with countless problems of drug dealing and guerrilla warfare to a nation on the path to becoming a developed country, future member of OECD and NATO. To use the words Time magazine recently published, this has truly been a “Colombian Comeback.”

This country’s renaissance is intimately linked to the rise of its cities out of disaster and despair.

In my last post I described the huge change in Bogotá (the country’s capital) due to its investment in transportation, but recently another city in Colombia has received the attention of those interested in urban planning and environmental transformations. Medellin, the country’s third-largest city, won the prize for the most innovative city in the world, beating places like Tel Aviv and New York. Medellin invested in transportation with the creation of extensive metro and cable car systems that brought access to the people living in the poorest parts of the city, mainly on the mountain hills, to the opportunities in the downtown below.

Panoramic of Medellin

It has implemented an extensive network of public libraries located in the poorest neighborhoods, several projects involving innovation like the ‘Parque Explora,’ a new theme park dedicated to science and discoveries, and the famous ‘Orquideorama,’ a public space celebrating orchids, the national flower of Colombia.

Metrocable Medellin

But recently, what has moved this transformation even further has been the investment in education and innovation, and especially in entrepreneurship – this investment in entrepreneurship has been showcased by the creation of ‘Ruta N.’ ‘Ruta N’ is a center of innovation and business, sponsored by the government, that empowers new businesses based on knowledge creation and education, with all of this leading to the creation of, to use the language of the city government, a new ‘ecosystem’ of science, technology and innovation.

Ruta N Building

The project is directed by the Municipality of Medellin, Medellin Public Enterprises and UNE Communications, which economically support the programs to the tune of approximately $123 million each year.

This path of innovation is a kind of urban transformation, based in infrastructure projects but leading to a new conception of urbanism that considers innovation, technology and growth for a future economy.

In 2014, Medellin will host the World Urban Forum 7, in which Medellin’s innovation will be on display to the world. Only time will say if Medellin got it right by investing in this new way of urbanism.

Would you apply the ‘Medellin way’ to your own city? How do you think urban planning is evolving?

 Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

Luis Lozano-Paredes

Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then moved to Argentina in 2006. There, he finished the Common Basic Cycle of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires before pursuing studies in Landscape Design at the same Institution. Inspired by the Urban Transformation of Bogotá in the past decades, his interests evolved from Landscape Architecture to his current passion; Urban Planning, Policy Making, and Sustainable Development. He plans to continue his studies in Urban Planning and Sustainability in Canada, Chile, or the U.S.; but for the moment he currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Metropolitan Transport Studies of the University of Buenos Aires and is a Member of the Observatory of Urban Sustainability at Belgrano University. Luis’ main interests lay within the study of Smart Cities, Urban Sustainable Development, and Social Architecture in Latin America.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 at 9:17 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Government/Politics, Social/Demographics, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


3 Responses to “Medellin: How Transportation & Innovation Have Given This Failing City A Chance”

  1. Dan Linstroth Says:

    Great post, Luis. I’m from the US but have lived in both your home country, Colombia (Santa Marta), and your current city, Buenos Aires.

    Having no preconceived visual of Medellin, I was stunned the first time I traveled to this beautiful city. Since, I am very pleased to see Medellin get the recognition that it deserves. It is a very bright spot for Colombia, a country that deserves positive global attention.

    I wonder your thoughts on Buenos Aires, which gets a lot of global attention but perhaps more for cultural activities. From my perspective, it is a city with a few problems of its own – congestion, corruption, and drastic levels of inequality between the rich and poor. I would love to see you write a piece on what is going on in Buenos Aires, from your perspective as a future Urban Planner and Architect.

    Great work, Luis.

  2. Luis Says:

    Thank you for your comment Dan.

    If you take a look at my previously published posts, you will find several examples of articles concerning Buenos Aires, from congestion and zoning to ‘green’ architecture and environmental planning.

    Having lived in Buenos Aires I hope you will find them interesting and also any feedback or insight you can give about them will be really appreciated.

  3. Dan Linstroth Says:

    Great. I’ll take a look. Thanks for the response.

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