Day 2 :: The Red City

The above are a few of the projects I roamed the vast city of Bogota looking at today, which started at 7 AM and ended somewhere around 830.

I woke up tense to thoughts of other aloof travelers rummaging through what few things I brought with me good enough to pawn; the aforementioned misanthropy is still alive and well. Refusing to go back to sleep I went out for a walk down to the old city center (Plaza Bolivar) and sat to draw the strangely scaled, achronistic site around me: opposing the Capitolio Nacional sits a modern proxy (formally), the Palacio de Justicia. The space was quite strange and littered with a few junkies, more police and army men than pigeons (there were a lot of pigeons) and well, litter. I walked up the hill for a while and came across some fanastically brutal examples of 50’s modernism (not pictured above) and went back to the hostel to call a taxi.

Through a friend I arranged meeting up with Camilo Santamaria – a practicing and teaching architect/urbanist. The drive through the northern districts of Bogota made me think of what a colleague of mine (and Colombian architect), Guillermo Murcia, called Bogota – the Red City. From the early use of brick in colonial architecture to its rempowerment as a modernist material (thanks almost exclusively to Rogelio Salmona), the entire city is painted in this deep earth tone. What’s more incredible is that, in someways reminiscent to what the Post-War Italians were doing, the very simple material palette is the one (and only) thing that bridges the gap between the lower and upper classes.

Of course the taxi driver had to go the wrong way down a one way street leading to a hospital and we got stopped, at which point he told me we were close and to just get out. A good 14 blocks later, asking some 6 people along the way I get to my meeting an hour and a half late. ‘No problem’, Camilo said,  ‘you just missed lunch.’ He showed me around his office and sat down with me and a fellow architect (Diana Sandoval) and told me what he had planned for me. We went through his books, discussed architecture the only way two (three) nerds can and then he drove his associate and myself around for an hour to several of the farther out projects in the city. [I can’t help but think that not one architect in NYC would have done the same .]

After that Diana and I went walking around to everything else I would have never known to look for in this impossible city. It turns out my new friend is a professor of urban theory at the University and has received her MA from Bartlett and a school in Milan, at which point she painted in Spain on a fellowship which led to a few galleries picking her up. Interesting woman, needless to say.

It was getting dark and I realized I was also supposed to meet up with one of Colombia’s best (and most published) architect, Giancarlo Mazzanti – the self-proclaimed Peter Eisenman of the Southern American Hemipshere. It turns out our schedules will not allow for us to meet up, as I may be heading to Medellin to meet up with Felipe Mesa (Plan B Arquitectura). But I may steer clear of the 8 hour bus ride wrought with A-Drug Cartel Overlords (La Trini, Norte del Valle, Cali) B-Guirrilla Groups (FARC, ELN, Popular Liberation Army) C-Paramilitary Organizations (United Self Defense Forces, AUC) and D-Governmental Arms (Police, Comandos Especiales Aereos, FEAU).

It’s 10PM and I can barely walk and didn’t eat all day – the Argentian girl in my dorm was robbed out front of our place only 4 days ago – looks like I’ll skinny up by May.

Let’s hope tomorrow brings food and more architecture.

United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia

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