How to Draw Medellín

Alejandro Echeverri | Alejandro Valdivieso

Harvard Design Magazine No. 42 (S/S 2016), is titled "Run for Cover!" This issue explores explores how fear—of assault, of nature, of power, of the Other—shapes our physical world, and how the built environment provokes, prevents, or palliates fear. The following is an original feature from the issue.
Alejandro Valdivieso talks to Alejandro Echeverri about streets, streams, and social cohesion.

Some drawings are made with the same sense of purpose of writing: they are notes we take. Others try to resolve the execution of one project in one particular image or imagine how it would work. There is a third type that is produced after them—that type of drawings made a posteriori, once the work has been built—able to raise a new approach to the project. All of these types of drawings make possible a systematic approach to the work, even if they force their internal logic up to its absurdity.— Bruce Nauman, Drawing & Graphics (1991)


During a recent encounter with Colombian architect Alejandro Echeverri, I asked him to draw a plan of his city, Medellín, in one of the blank pages of my notebook. It was an exercise in synthesis and memory. Echeverri describes his work in Medellín not in terms of isolated architectural episodes, but as the construction of a narrative that exposes the underlying forces that fostered violence and the resulting transformations of the city.

Alejandro Valdivieso  Only 25 years ago, Medellín, Colombia, was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Today, largely thanks to your work, it is considered a case study for inclusion and social innovation processes. Fear, in this instance, is not understood as an abstract emotion or hindrance, but as a driver of positive action.

Alejandro Echeverri  In Medellín, fear defined our reality; it displaced our intellectual interests—and for that matter our agenda as architects—and linked us emotionally and physically, in a very intense way, to the places where we were working. Violence engenders fear; it is a provocation; it asks you to change your architectural roadmap, to make visible the struggle and the tragedy.

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This interview was originally published in Harvard Design Magazine No. 42: (Spring / Summer 2016).