Colombia has enjoyed many substantial transformations during the past decade: from an almost failed state with countless problems of drug dealing and guerrilla warfare to a nation on the path to becoming a developed country, future member of OECD and NATO. To use the words Time magazine recently published, this has truly been a “Colombian Comeback.”
This country’s renaissance is intimately linked to the rise of its cities out of disaster and despair.
In my last post I described the huge change in Bogotá (the country’s capital) due to its investment in transportation, but recently another city in Colombia has received the attention of those interested in urban planning and environmental transformations. Medellin, the country’s third-largest city, won the prize for the most innovative city in the world, beating places like Tel Aviv and New York. Medellin invested in transportation with the creation of extensive metro and cable car systems that brought access to the people living in the poorest parts of the city, mainly on the mountain hills, to the opportunities in the downtown below.
It has implemented an extensive network of public libraries located in the poorest neighborhoods, several projects involving innovation like the 'Parque Explora,' a new theme park dedicated to science and discoveries, and the famous 'Orquideorama,' a public space celebrating orchids, the national flower of Colombia.
But recently, what has moved this transformation even further has been the investment in education and innovation, and especially in entrepreneurship - this investment in entrepreneurship has been showcased by the creation of ‘Ruta N.’ 'Ruta N' is a center of innovation and business, sponsored by the government, that empowers new businesses based on knowledge creation and education, with all of this leading to the creation of, to use the language of the city government, a new ‘ecosystem’ of science, technology and innovation.
The project is directed by the Municipality of Medellin, Medellin Public Enterprises and UNE Communications, which economically support the programs to the tune of approximately $123 million each year.
This path of innovation is a kind of urban transformation, based in infrastructure projects but leading to a new conception of urbanism that considers innovation, technology and growth for a future economy.
In 2014, Medellin will host the World Urban Forum 7, in which Medellin’s innovation will be on display to the world. Only time will say if Medellin got it right by investing in this new way of urbanism.
Would you apply the ‘Medellin way’ to your own city? How do you think urban planning is evolving?
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.