Nodos de Desarrollo Cultural- Cultural Development Node No. 1 “El Morro”
- Urban Context
The neighbourhood of Moravia grew as an illegal settlement of communities that arrived to Medellín, Colombia, in the 1960s. The municipal dump “El Morro”, established in the same area in 1977, became a source of neighbourhood’s survival, based on recuperation of any recyclable materials, effectively turning Moravia into a quarter with its economy based on and sustained by trash. Due to national social conflicts of the early 1980s, which pushed people from rural areas to the city, and ‘thanks’ to the presence of the dump, Moravia reached its population peak. From 17.000 people in 1983, in 2004 Moravia and its surrounding reached 42.000 inhabitants on just 44 hectares – the highest population per square metre in the entire city of Medellín. This extreme population density, the indiscriminate appropriation of the land and the appalling conditions in which many of the settlers had to survive, has caused a perplexingly tough quality of life on the dump and a desperate lack of public space and facilities. Moravia, once located at the edge of the city, through the expansion of the city in the last decades now finds itself right in the midst of it. In the same year (2004), the Alcaldia de Medellín / Municipality of Medellín under the guidance of mayor Sergio Fajardo, began the Macroproyecto de Moravia, an integrated strategic plan to promote development through actions aimed toward recovering the urban area and improving the socio-cultural, socio-economic and environmental conditions. A significant sign of the neighbourhood’s rebirth made through this plan is the initiation of the Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia / Cultural Development Center of Moravia (CDCM), whose aim is to promote culture, education and the arts, and which was strongly desired by the community. The centre opened in 2008, on a plot of land set free by the inhabitants of Moravia, and designed by one of the most renown Colombian architects, Rogelio Salmona.
In the first three years of activities the CDCM has served a population of nearly 500.000 inhabitants, developing a huge number of cultural activities from the arts to the education. The intense use of the centre made by the community and the important role that the place has taken in the cultural life of the neighbourhood has brought the necessity to create alternative spaces around the actual building. The premise of the project Cultural Development Nodes was to tackle the lack of cultural spaces in a marginalized densely populated neighbourhood, and in addition, work under the condition of a low budget, using recycled materials and strict conditions of use of public space.
- Team and working method
The Cultural Development Node No.1 “El Morro” has been conceived as a bridge between art and architecture, and it is proposed as a collectively artistic act to support the process of urban transformation of the neighbourhood, through the creation of new spaces for culture available for the entire community. It also has the function to symbolically communicate the history and identity of the community of Moravia.
The project was developed through the formation of an international and interdisciplinary team that included STEALTH.unlimited (The Netherlands/Serbia) and a group of architects, artists and architecture students from the city of Medellín. During August 2010, in a three weeks workshop, parameters for the search of materials were set and some initial design options for the spaces were identified, considering the needs of use the CDCM has requested. About the methodology STEALTH.unlimited writes: “Both the context of Moravia – a neighbourhood that is undergoing major change for the years to come – and the condition to make the extension of the Cultural Development Centre with materials reclaimed from the city have forced us to adopt a flexible design approach. Instead of waiting for the location and finances for a ‘proper’ building to come together, the decision has been made to use cheaper means (like transportation containers or an old bus) and start with a temporary space. The neighbourhood of Moravia is known for reclaiming and recycled materials, naturally these were adopted for the project. This means that the design is largely based on the availability of materials that can be collected locally, which are varying from day to day. This inverts the design process, as the design is based on the found materials, rather than the other way around.”
Considering that the old garbage dump that Moravia grow on at this very moment is on the verge of being fenced off and environmentally sanitised for a period of the next 25 years to follow – a process that will have a large impact on the community, its economy and its future – the choice has been made to connect the location of the project directly with this fact and to position the project right at the edge of the dump, on a terrain reclaimed from the waste. Then, after spotting a number of possible materials for realisation of the structure and the internal furnishings, we proceeded to design three spatial units. They would function as reading workshop for children and adults, art workshop and multi-functional terrace for events (like a neighbourhood kitchen). We decided to build a (steel) structure that could accommodate as much as possible of recycled elements, including parts of a local bus (doors and windows). This allowed us to use the rest of the bus to build a public terrace. While developing and building the new spaces, slowly its model of ”cultural inclusion” became more evident: the cultural space as a model and methodology for cultural inclusion, that can be disseminated in similar urban contexts in Latin American cities.
With its efficient design, flexibility of use and its strong aesthetics, the Cultural Development Node No.1 “El Morro” is the first space of its kind in the neighbourhood, in Medellín and probably in Colombia. It is proposed as a model for the inclusion of the whole community in cultural activities that institutions in a territory can offer.
- Cultural inclusion
The extension of the CDCM, conceived as a network of Cultural Development Nodes, gives a possibility of decentralising the activities of the center, strengthening its presence in the territory and its role as aggregation space for the neighbourhood. Beyond being a process of architectural design for the extension of an existing space, the proposal is focusing on creation of a model for the diffusion of culture in the neighbourhood, based on the already successful cultural core in the territory. The main objective of this process, that expands the range of existing cultural institution by multiplying its space with temporary cheap structures, is to increase access to cultural activities for community and create a network of sites to strengthen community development processes.
Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia (CDCM), opened in 2008, is part of a major urban renewal process started in Medellín six years ago by the Mayor of the time, Sergio Fajardo. The CDCM was designed by the Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona, with a auditorium that can seat 300 people, rehearsal rooms for musicians, multi-purpose rooms for teaching, internet lounge, playroom and open-air recreational spaces. It offer a wide program of activities for the community, all based in the arts and cultural contents. It has a program of art lessons in painting, ceramics, music and in general all kind of activities that can help the human development of the community. It offer spaces for exhibitions, cinema, theater and music. The CDCM was conceived not simply as a venue where to hold cultural events, but also as a place for the community to meet and develop, towards better cohabitation and improved living standards. The CDCM makes its services available to about five hundred thousand people.
El Puente_lab [laboratory of cultural activation] is a platform for artistic and cultural production, active in Medellín – Colombia, which aims to develop cultural projects on a local level, building bridges of communication with artists and experts through a strategy of international cooperation. The projects developed by El Puente_lab meet the specific needs of the social context where they are carried out, using artistic creativity as a tool of activation of cultural projects that initiate, facilitate and / or accompany processes of education, communication and urban and social transformation. Since 2008 El puente_lab is conducting a series of contemporary art projects with international artists in Moravia neighbourhood in Medellín. El Puente_lab is formed by Juan Esteban Sandoval, Daniel Urrea Peña and Alejandro Vásquez Salinas.
STEALTH.unlimited is a practice based between Rotterdam and Belgrade, set up in 2000 by architects Ana Dzokic and Marc Neelen. STEALTH is internationally recognized as one of the protagonist pointing to the responsibilities and capacities of architecture in contemporary societies. In 2008 with Saskia van Stein they co-curated the Dutch Pavilion at the Architecture Biennial in Venice, with the project Archiphoenix: Faculties of Architecture. In the same year they completed Fruit and Energy Farms in a Public Square, a public art commission for a schoolyard in Knivsta, Sweden, made in collaboration with Marjetica Potrc. In 2009 they curated part of the Tirana International Contemporary Art Biannual – to include domains of city and urban transformation. In 2010, with Kristian Lukic, they curated IMPAKT festival in Utrecht under the title Matrix City and in Belgrade co-initiated the platform Who Builds the City? The work of STEALTH is interdisciplinary, multifaceted and involves many participants and experts in often dense collaborations – to mobilize thinking on shared future(s) of the city and its culture.
A project by:
CDCM – Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia and El Puente_lab
Concept and design:
STEALTH.unlimited (Ana Dzokic and Marc Neelen)
Architects María Camila Vélez and Yesenia Rodríguez
El puente_lab (Juan Esteban Sandoval and Alejandro Vasquez Salinas)
With the Participation of:
Students from the architecture faculty of Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín (Jorge Alberto Arango, Cesar Augusto Muñoz Toro, Jenny Paola Sierra, José León Gómez, German Tamayo).
Guide and community leader: Cielo María Holguín Ramírez.
Documentation: Andres Galeano.
Megal S.A., coordinated by: María Camila Vélez, Yesenia Rodríguez and Alejandro Vasquez Salinas (El puente_lab).Furniture realized by artisans and carpenters from Moravia.
2010-2011. Opened on the 15th of April 2011.
Alcaldía de Medellín and COMFENALCO Antioquia.
With the support of:
Mondriaan Foundation (Netherlands), Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (Italy), Unidad Taller del Espacio Público-Departamento Administrativo de Planeación de Medellín, Gerencia Macroproyecto de Moravia (Medellín), Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá (Medellín), Jardín Botánico de Medellín, Corporación Sentidos (Medellín), Cocineros de Moravia, Red Cultural de Moravia.