How Design Can Help Initiate Positive Change

In Medellín, Colombia an inspiring story has unfolded which illustrates how design can help initiate positive change.

Our Most Beautiful Buildings Must be in our Poorest Areas-2

In Medellín, Colombia an inspiring story has unfolded which illustrates how design can help initiate positive change. Former mayor Sergio Fajardo and former director of urban projects Alejandro Echeverri set out to revitalize the city, known for rampant problems with drugs and murder.

Their plan was unusual – instead of limiting their new building construction and civic improvements to any one small area – they worked with, and consulted the residents of many different neighborhoods, including some of the worst slums. And the results were impressive, murder rates dropped significantly, the education system was improved and the city gave out micro-loans to help boost local small businesses.

Design Observer reports:

Stunning architecture was also part of the project, including Sergio Gomez’s Jardin Botánico-Orquideorama, an orchid garden housed in a 42,200-square-foot building with a canopy of wood-framed hexagons. And in keeping with Fajardo’s oft quoted remark that, “our most beautiful buildings must be in our poorest areas,” the Parque Biblioteca España, a striking library designed by Giancarlo Mazzanti that resembles three massive black boulders, was sited on a hilltop in a barrio once known only for drug violence and death. An elevated gondola tramway connects many poor and neglected neighborhoods to the rest of the city. Schools and community centers were built, and expenditures on education received a massive increase, totaling 40 percent of the city’s annual $900 million budget. Commenting on the power of design to leverage social change, Fajardo, who is now running for president of Colombia, told Newsweek magazine in 2007, “People who say that a beautiful building doesn’t improve education don’t understand something critical. The first step toward quality education is the quality of the space. When the poorest kid in Medellín arrives in the best classroom in the city, there is a powerful message of social inclusion.”

Design Observer: “Medellín, Colombia”

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