Bogotá Dresses in Green
The transformation of a Latin American metropolis.
By Jimena Martignoni
Between 1997 and 2003, Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, invested in public space like never before. A legislated land use
program, the Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial (pot), which took effect in 1997, compelled all Colombian city councils to draft a
public space renovation plan and put it into action within three years. In Bogotá, where poverty and crime had physically
degraded many neighborhoods, the result was nothing less than a transformation, as three successive mayors created a sweeping overhaul
of the city’s public spaces.
The POT seeks to work beyond the level of aesthetics, fostering social and environmental sustainability through urban design. Specifically,
it focuses on community participation, restoring and preserving the natural environment, and improving the quality of built public
space. The program’s criteria will be used to guide all new urban projects in Bogotá until 2010, especially those involving
pedestrian areas, vehicular connections, and green space.
The inclusion of landscape architects in the multidisciplinary teams that planned and carried out the projects sounds a hopeful
note for the profession in other Latin American cities, which have been slow to recognize landscape architecture’s value. In Bogotá’s
planning phase, the main task of landscape architects was to outline master plans for the parks system and for the restoration of natural
water systems throughout the city. These large schemes broke down into 30 short-term projects to be finished by 2004, 30 more to be
completed by 2007, and 30 more (as well as the consolidation of the primary ecological network) to be done by 2010. Most of these
project teams include landscape architects.
Reversing the Decline of a City
Partly as a result of the explosive growth that Bogotá experienced
during the past 30 yearsrising from a population of less than 1,000,000 to 7,000,000this city became one of the most chaotic
and insecure in Latin America. An environmental study conducted between 1993 and 1996 was an important turning point, exposing the
city’s problems and the need for strong political action carried out by district authorities in conjunction with community residents.
Among other things, the study revealed the negative impacts of
Bogotá’s rapid, unplanned expansion. Building urban and suburban
settlements in environmentally vulnerable areas, for example, placed
enormous pressure on the city’s natural resources, especially the
watershed originating in the surrounding mountains. The study showed
clear connections between the degraded natural environment and deteriorating
conditions and quality of life throughout the city.
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