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What Medellin Teaches Us About Design and Social Engagement

Michael Kimmelman ventures to Colombia's reborn second city to explore what new buildings and infrastructure have brought to the city's residents, what it has not, and what remains to be done.
May 20, 2012, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Home to a cultural and social transformation attributed to the construction of infrastructure and glamorous architecture under the guidance of Sergio Fajardo, the governor of the region who was the city's mayor from 2004 to 2007, Kimmelman tells a more nuanced story. "The city's transformation established roots before Mr. Fajardo took office, in thoughtful planning guidelines, amnesties and antiterrorism programs, community-based initiatives by Germany and the United Nations and a Colombian national policy mandating architectural interventions as a means to attack poverty and crime."

Kimmelman also seeks to tell a larger story about the indelible connection between the physical and social environments. "Around the world, followers of architecture with a capital A have focused so much of their attention on formal experiments, as if aesthetics and social activism, twin Modernist concerns, were mutually exclusive. But Medellín is proof that they're not, and shouldn't be. Architecture, here and elsewhere, acts as part of a larger social and economic ecology, or else it elects to be a luxury, meaningless except to itself."

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Published on Friday, May 18, 2012 in The New York Times
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