Fernando Botero Library Park
San Cristobal, Medelin, Colombia
Orlando Garcia/ G Ateliers Architecture
Adriana Salazar/ G Ateliers Architecture (Associate Architect)
Anibal Gaviria Correa, Mayor of Medellin
The ambition of this project was to consolidate all the best qualities that make a great cultural center and to give the local villagers the opportunity to experience these institutions in a rural context with a significant piece of architecture that they could relate to and which in turn could contribute to Intensify the identity of the place and the sense community. Given the constrains and limitations of time and budget available -which are part of the intangible context- we knew that the project had to be simple, efficient, functional, economical, easy to build, easy to maintain but also generous and meaningful. So essentially it was an issue of doing “More with Less”. Therefore, we strived to pursue an austere language of evoking spaces capable of stimulating the senses to produce positive emotional responses and with this in mind we created sensitive poetic rules that could speak the essence and character of each space in order to achieve the emotional impact we were looking for. For this reason, Light, shadow and penumbra play a fundamental role in the physical and atmospheric composition of the building as a common poetic ground in which the spaces and the humble yet worthy materials could be experienced in their full glory. We wanted a building that could be built by the locals aiming to build a sense of belonging and hoping that they would care for it. We also felt it was appropriate to have a serene building anchored to the topography that could talk to its neighbors but that could maintain its own identity.
San Cristobal is an urban village located on the west hills of the city of Medellin. Historically, it was seen as the rear yard of the city and even today it still preserves a strong rural atmosphere with a predominantly low-income population, which in most cases have not had the opportunity to enjoy the great advantages and privileges of the big city like theaters, libraries, and other cultural, educational and recreational institutions. The "Genius Loci" of this semi-rural area makes evident the strong relationship with the landscape where the broken surface and the steep topography generate a particular urban morphology, which exposes the side and rear facades of the buildings with windows arranged in random fashion, thus revealing an interesting urban texture of "city perforations". This idea of “perforations” became the driving force and the genesis of the design which we used with inspiring conviction as devices to provide framed views, natural light and ventilation. We also discovered existing footpaths on the site which were kept in order to validate the notion of the importance of the existing delicate social and urban tissue. Because of the difficult topography, there is almost no public space in the urban core of San Cristobal, so the basic idea was to reduce the footprint of the building and keep the architectural program within a single structure therefore maximizing open space.
Since the opening of the Library Park, the poorly maintained facades of several adjacent buildings have been revamped by their owners and the crude aspect of the surroundings started to change, a new atmosphere of hope can be perceived around the Library Park. New businesses began to sprout. Smiles in the faces of hundreds of children are common now. Soon after, and proud of their Library Park, the local villagers insisted in naming the building after one of the most important artists of Colombia, Fernando Botero. The villagers approached him and he accepted. When the artist visited the building by first time, he was so moved that he decided to donate one of his sculptures to the library park. "My son was born with the Library Park. He will grow and learn with it. He will not know what San Cristobal is without this building because from now on it also belongs to him," said a young mother of the community. The project not only serves its intended purpose but it has also become the heart and soul of this territory. For us, it was a real satisfaction that our small contribution with this project has not only helped to improve the quality of life of the community but it has also brought hope to the people and the idea that a better future is not just a dream. The building has finally begun its journey within the realm of Architecture, a dream has become true, a new transformation has begun.