The Archipelago in the Archipelago. Medellin: A Tropical City

It’s been almost 40 years (1977) since Oswald Mathias Ungers and Rem Koolhaas wrote: The city in the City, Berlin: a green archipelago. Its waves and side effects have grown recently into a paradoxical vision and opportunity for cities questioning the role of architecture to perform in this complex and ambiguous times; In one hand, “the idea that inner-city areas can only be rehabilitated through more construction” had been questioned in a more radical way by a heavy reality of macro economical events, social issues and environmental emergencies that make architecture almost irrelevant and sometimes even hopeless. In the other hand and as stated by Ungers and Koolhaas, a possibility also lies within such statement: “in the context of a program of selective deflation of urban pressure…..It offers a clear and unique opportunity to identify and weed out those parts of the city that are now substandard, for architectural or other reasons and to intensify and even complete the fragments that would be preserved.”

This studio aims to use Ungers and Koolhaas text as a design guideline, as a theoretical and practical frame to discover new possibilities, to question history and see possible outcomes out of its original context. We will work completing the fragments using the frame proposed by Ungers and Koolhaas for Berlin tor study, renovate and transform Medellin´s city center through new site specific architecture projects.

Medellin is confined to a narrow valley, walled by mountains. After many years of social and political unrest, its city center was abandoned, and its population has been shrinking for the last 30 years, leaving behind a robust infrastructure of streets, empty buildings, and just a few permanent inhabitants.

How can a tropical contemporary view re-inform Ungers’s and Koolhaas’s intellectual frame, but in this case using Medellin as the context? How can an emblematic text from the 20th century taken out of context can provide new ways of understanding a tropical city and transform its center?

We will design mixed use buildings of no more than 4.000 m2, ready to work as an archipelago of new “built islands” of ambiguous, contradictory and diverse programs. We will pursue an Architecture based on no mechanical climatization, undetermined borders, precise materiality and technical solutions with a critical and special emphasis approach on design processes and decision making. We will engage questions of tropical architecture history, typology in tropical Latin American narratives and possible scenarios for a possible new tropical architecture discourse.

This course has an irregular meeting schedule.

Camilo Restrepo Ochoa will be in residence on August 29, 30 and 31, September 15, 16, 29 and 30, October 20 and 21, November 3, 4, 17 and 18, and December 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9. The studio trip will take place October 2 –6.