Medellín in pictures: model for urban innovations

The bold and visionary leaders of Medellín adopted creative and non-conventional approaches and implemented a series of social innovation and public transport initiatives to pursue social equity and improve living conditions for its people. This has contributed to the successful transformation of the city, and is one of the key reasons why the city was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016. Click through the following gallery for a visual walk-through of some of the city’s most innovative urban interventions and social projects.

Medellin

01: The City of the Eternal Spring
Medellín is Colombia’s second largest city after capital city Bogotá, and is located in the Aburrá Valley. Despite being near the equator, the city is located 1,500m above sea level and as such it has a pleasant spring-like climate all year round and is often referred to as the “City of the Eternal Spring”. Photo © Pepe Navarro

Medellin

02: Unique topography
Medellín has a unique topography due to its valley locale. Over the years, the city was faced with and has overcome the challenges of uncontrolled urban expansion at its mountain edges due to rural-urban migration. Photo © Municipality of Medellín

Medellin

03: The Metro system
Medellín’s Metro system is one of the first urban interventions that kick-started the city’s dramatic transformation. The Metro system first started operations in 1995, and some 20 years later, it is today still the only mass rapid transit system in the whole of Colombia. In comparison, capital city Bogotá’s subway system will only commence operations in 2021. Photo © Municipality of Medellín

Medellin

04: The MetroCable
The MetroCable system is the world’s first cable car system used for daily commuting, connecting remote hillside residents of Comuna 1 Santo Domingo to the Metro system and the rest of the city. Today, the MetroCable serves at least 38,000 passengers daily. Photo © Municipality of Medellín

Medellin

05: Community spaces
Public spaces are integrated at the base of the MetroCable pylons, an example of the multiple use of space in the city. Photo © Municipality of Medellín

Medellin

06: Escalators at Comuna 13 San Javier
A set of escalators at Comuna 13 San Javier – once the most violent neighbourhood in the city – helped to improve mobility in the hillside neighbourhood. This is coupled with upgraded footpaths and roads, as well as pocket parks and wall mural artwork, and improved the quality of life in the neighbourhood. Photo © Urban Redevelopment Authority

Medellin

07: Escalators at Comuna 13 San Javier
Guides are employed from the local community at Comuna 13 San Javier to ensure a safe ride on the escalators for everyone. Photo © Urban Redevelopment Authority

Medellin

08: Library Parks

The stunning Spanish Library Park or Parque Biblioteca España designed by Architect Giancarlo Mazzanti in 2007 is one of many library parks in Medellín built in the poorest neighbourhoods, providing easy access points to learning and information for the local residents. Photo © Urban Redevelopment Authority

Medellin

09: Life Articulated Units
The Life Articulated Units or Unidades de Vida Articulada are community spaces built around existing water tanks in the city to return these previously under-utilised spaces back to the people, allowing many communal activities and festivals to take place. Photo © Municipality of Medellín

Medellin

10: Circumvent Garden
At the urban-rural edge, the Circumvent Garden or Jardin Circunvalar de Medellín provides communal spaces, such as the ‘Walk of Life’ pedestrian footpath pictured here, while limiting urban expansion. Photo © Municipality of Medellín

Medellin

11: Moravia Garden
In another part of the city, a former waste dump and barren landfill was transformed into Moravia Garden, a botanical “garden of life” managed by members of the community. Photo © Municipality of Medellín

Medellin

12: Citizens’ empowerment
The citizens are empowered to use up to five percent of the local budget for community uses, such as the Good Start Programme centred on early childhood education to develop the youngest segment of the population. Photo © Urban Redevelopment Authority

Medellin

13: Metro Culture
Local students are employed as Metro guides to foster a “Metro Culture” by inculcating good social behaviour on the Metro system as well as public spaces. Photo © Urban Redevelopment Authority

Medellin

14: Information on the go
The “Running Words” initiative is an open bookshelf located at Metro stations, allowing commuters to take a book for free, read on the go, lend it to a friend or family member, and return later. Photo © Urban Redevelopment Authority

Medellin

15: Information on the go
Small libraries such as the one pictured here are located conveniently in Metro stations, allowing commuters access to information on the go. Photo © Urban Redevelopment Authority

This article was first published in April 2016. All images contained within this page are used with license and shall not be copied, modified, or reproduced.