“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter F. Drucker
Colab-19 is an architecture laboratory based in Bogotá and London. We design sustainable spaces for post-pandemic situations with low-cost and innovative architectural solutions. We contend that these interventions must be coordinated and connected with the vision and needs of the city. In doing so, collaboration between the public, private, and academic sectors is necessary to empower our cities in a more resilient way.
Bogotá has been gravely affected by the pandemic. Not only has the city had one of the longest forced quarantines since the beginning of the pandemic, but it is also a place where the vast majority of the population cannot work from home. This has led to an internal socio-economic crisis in which several sectors have been severely debilitated. 40% of the city’s restaurants have been forced to shut down, leaving thousands unemployed. Given the circumstances, this is an unusual moment in recent history, in which public and private entities are desperately searching for fresh solutions to reactivate the economy, leading to an increased value in the work of designers. Considering that Bogotá is a traditional context where design has not been valued as it is in other places of the world, the 2020 pandemic has offered proof to our city of the positive value that architects and designers bring to society.
We see this moment as the turbo that will improve the quality of life in our cities. With the shift toward many more outdoor activities, we started designing for the forthcoming boom.
An essential part of the design process for Colab-19 is the selection of materials and systems for building our projects. When designing our first proposal (La Perse), we were asked to design an outdoor dining solution where the client essentially had no funds for the project. Quickly we realized that designing in the middle of a socio-economic crisis meant we had to think beyond traditional building materials. We concluded that the design had to be built with materials that were already part of our day-to-day routines, which could be recycled or reused to save costs. This led us to investigate construction infrastructure as inhabitable architecture. We decided that scaffolding was the most appropriate construction system due to its modularity, accessibility, and “outdoor feel”.
Bogotá is a traditional context that is not used to unconventional design. We were not convinced that Bogotá’s citizens would approach dining on a scaffold as a memorable experience, due to the material’s “industrial” and “cold” qualities. As a result, we were looking for materials that could soften up the interior of the proposal. This led us to investigate soft textiles, and we finally chose jute. Jute is a natural fiber that is commonly used in potato and coffee sacks all over the country. It is a material that people correlate with rural areas of Colombia, and it has a “warm” and “rustic” connotation. The juxtaposition of this material with an international industrial technology gave an innovative design a sense of place and generated a warm interior atmosphere for our outdoor dining solution. Additionally, we are happy to say 100% of the materials used in this intervention will be recycled, proving that sustainable architecture has the means to be low cost and high impact.