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