2022

MCHAP

TROPICARIO. BOGOTA BOTANICAL GARDEN

-DARP- DE ARQUITECTURA Y PAISAJE

Bogotá, Colombia

March 2021

PRIMARY AUTHOR

JORGE EMILIO BUITRAGO, JAIME EDUARDO CABAL

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Jamie NG, Carlos Andrés Palacio, Cristian Camilo Ríos, Milena Jaramillo, Sebastián Rosas, Héctor Ospina, Mauricio Álvarez, Katherine Agudelo

CLIENT

Jardín Botánico de Bogotá José Celestino Mutis (Bogota Botanical Garden)

PHOTOGRAPHER

MAURICIO CARVAJAL

OBJECTIVE

The starting question was: ¿How to relate the project to the landscape of the Bogotá Savannah? This question would require the project to function as a space to disseminate and teach about the environmental values and threats that this territory faces, as a way of contributing to the culture of the local landscape.

The building should be in constant flux between the global scale, as a tool to fight global warming though conservation and education, the country scale, as the means to display and protect the ecosystems; and the local by creating an intrinsic relationship to the lost ‘Bogota Savannah’ wetland ecosystem and its immediate context of the Botanical Garden.

It should work as a open-ended system that can contract and expand and mutate overtime as needs change, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, where each of the parts can work on its own, but together form a coherent educational journey through the country, through different temperatures, and altitudes and highlights the incredible diversity of the country, as well as the threats, challenges, and responsibilities we have to protect Colombia’s environmental diversity as world heritage.

The project needs to recreate six different environments, Rain Forest, Dry Forest, Useful Plants, Super-paramo, Biodiversity and Special Collections, all with different temperature, light and humidity requirements while at the same time maintaining a coherent whole, and minimising the carbon footprint, not only during construction, but also for its operation and entire lifecycle by maximising the use of passive systems for shading, ventilation irrigation, as a way to design a responsible building as well as expand the educational programme beyond the Tropicario’s content, in terms of how it's being built, and how its operated.

CONTEXT

The city of Bogota is located in the centre of the country in an area known as the ‘Bogota Savannah’, a high plateau at 2600 m.a.s.l that is part of the eastern mountain range of the Andes.
The territory that the city encompasses today was initially a large lake that connected hills and rivers through its hydrographic system. Unfortunately, today there are only a few traces of this historic lake; the city has drained the vast majority of the 50,000m2 of lakes and wetlands for its urban development to the point that today only 1.45% remains, and there is little knowledge in the community about the lost ecosystem, and its importance.
Colombia’s environmental wealth is in high contrast with its increasing levels of deforestation, illegal mining, and industrial livestock farming, which together with its alarming number of endangered species put the country on the Red list for the 8 countries responsible for the deterioration of the planet.*
*https://www.iucnredlist.org/
As a strategy for the conservation and protection of ecosystems, the Botanical Garden of Bogotá develops the initiative "Nodos de Diversidad" or "Nodes of Diversity", an ambitious project that seeks to carry out a new botanical expedition throughout different areas of the country and that will allow protecting and valuing some of the most threatened ecosystems in the Colombian territory. The Tropicario, is the main piece of infrastructure of this conservation initiative, and it’s conceived as a space to show, educate and promote the expedition and its findings and challenges as part of the fight against global warming.

The project is located on the footprint of an old structure, which was in a high state of deterioration. The conservation of the wax palms surrounding the implantation site was a decisive element for the project. It is a species of very slow growth, declared a national tree and in danger of extinction. These palms live for more than 100 years, reaching heights of up to 70 meters. There are more than 70 adult palms of this type around the site of the structures. This raised the need to use a system of flexible forms, in order not to affect the trees.

PERFORMANCE

The Tropicario is the focal point of the Botanical Garden. We distributed the programme as a system of floating structures in a ‘Bogota Savannah’ wetland, using references from prehispanic structures such as Chinampas, Camellones, and Floating Islands.

The building is devised as an educational journey, where the visitor is taken through a series of indoor and outdoor spaces and gets to interact directly with the different ecosystems from elevated walkways, supported by information on the collections through signage located along the paths.

Different films and thicknesses are used for the glass enclosures that together with automatic openings for temperature control, and rainwater harvesting for irrigation form a sustainable closed building system. A system of "locks", as transitional spaces between the different collections allow the visitor to move from one space to another, preserving the temperature conditions required for each space.

The access plaza forms the heart of the system and is devised as a space for outdoor activities which can hold larger groups of people; five of the floating islands, house permanent ecosystems and have been designed with the specific requirements of each of them while the remaining one was designed as more flexible space that can house temporary exhibitions, community events, fundraisers, and adapt for future use.

The Tropicario, is a crucial conservation tool, by bringing these endangered ecosystems close to the public, and educating them about their existence and importance through first hand experience. The environmental emergency that our planet is experiencing makes it necessary for the public project to be imagined using urban and environmental logics in a symbiotic way, in order to safeguard the shared environmental heritage.