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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

May 2007 Issue

Celebration of Water
A tropical Colombian city converts a historic water treatment plant into a park.

By Jimena Martignoni

Celebration of Water Guillermo Quintero

In the northern Colombian city of Bucaramanga, an unusual park on the grounds of a renovated water treatment plant celebrates the many attributes of water. Conceived as an urban oasis that brings nature into the city, the park also reminds Bucaramanga’s residents how precious the water is that they enjoy every day.

The Bucaramanga Aqueduct Company dates from 1916, when, as a private firm, it started building pipes from upland rivers and brooks to serve the city. When the water treatment plant was built in 1920, it provided open, meadowlike areas that local residents informally adopted as a park for passive recreation. But after the plant managers constructed a whole new plant on the site in the 1960s, it consumed much of the land formerly used as a park, and people stopped going there. Over time, the site deteriorated.

In 1975, the municipal government bought the aqueduct company, forming a public–private partnership, and in 2001, engineer Victor Azuero Diaz, the aqueduct company’s manager, revived the idea of a public park after the firm decided to relocate its administrative offices from downtown to the aqueduct. In collaboration with another local engineer, Gabriel Hernandez, Azuero Diaz started to research the project and search for the right professionals for the job.

The relocation entailed building new administrative facilities at the treatment plant, including more than 200 new parking spaces. Azuero Diaz proposed a more challenging idea: reshaping the dynamic topography of the degraded 9.14-acre site into a park designed around the theme of water. Mayor Ivan Moreno Rojas agreed, and the Parque del Agua was launched.

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