Back issue for magazine - Architectural Review 2011/2 (1368)

Architectural Review 2011/2 (1368) Until recently, Colombia was a convenient cipher for the corrosive effects of drug culture, violence, poverty and lawlessness. The notion that architecture might somehow be the antidote to this toxic stew seemed scarcely credible. But as this special issue on Colombia clearly shows, stereotypes can and are being confounded. In the hands of a group of dedicated architects, politicians, activists, planners and educators, architecture has taken on an extraordinary social dimension as a redefining force for good. New schools, parks, libraries, housing and transport infrastructure are changing the physical and mental landscape of Colombia’s major cities. This is not flighty, frothy superstar stuff, but decent, dignified modern buildings and landscaping, much of it realised on very tight budgets. Yet the effect has been to revitalise and reanimate the public realm. No-go neighbourhoods are being plugged back into civil society, and with this comes a new kind of reality. People feel safe. They can go to work, go to school, meet their friends, go shopping, hang out in a park. It all feeds into a virtuous cycle that gradually prevails over the anarchy and fear of the not so distant past.
Though there is still much to be done, there is a palpable sense of a tide being turned and of architecture reconnecting with its core purpose of truly transforming human life for the better. In a difficult and dangerous milieu, Colombian architects have shown what is possible. Their energy and imagination should have a wider global resonance.

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