Nodos de Desarrollo Cultural No. 1 (Cultural Development Node No. 1) ‘El Morro’ is the first in what is to become a series of architectural interventions to expand the reach and capacity of the quite recent, but already highly successful Cultural Development Center of Moravia (CDCM), located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Medellín, Colombia – area with extreme social and environmental challenges. On the invitation of CDCM and El Puente_lab, STEALTH joined this exceptional project that opened its doors in April 2011. Available for Moravia’s entire community, the Node is a test case of decentralising cultural community development programs into the neighbourhood through temporary cheap structures. The new spaces are made mainly from locally recycled materials and completed with the skills of local craftsmanship.
[urban context – a neighbourhood around a dump]
In 2004, under the guidance of mayor Sergio Fajardo, the Municipality of Medellín began an integrated strategic plan to recover the neighbourhood of Moravia, that by then reached an extreme population density, with 42,000 inhabitants, 15,000 living on top of the de-activated garbage dump ‘El Morro’. Moravia grew as an illegal settlement since the 1960s. The municipal garbage dump, established here in 1977 and closed in 1984, became a source of neighbourhood’s survival, based on recuperation of any recyclable materials. Due to national social conflicts of the early 1980s, people from rural areas who were pushed to the city, appropriated the garbage hill and its surrounding and built their life there, in perplexingly tough conditions and with a desperate lack of public space and facilities. Through the expansion of the city in the last decades Moravia finds itself right in the midst of it.
A significant sign of the neighbourhood’s rebirth made through this plan is the initiation of the Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia / Cultural Development Center of Moravia (CDCM), whose aim is to promote culture, education and the arts, and which was built on request of the community. The centre opened in 2008, on a plot of land set free by the inhabitants of Moravia, and designed by a renown Colombian architects, Rogelio Salmona. In the first three years the CDCM has served nearly 500.000 inhabitants.
The intense use of the centre and the important role that it got in the life of the neighbourhood brought the necessity to extend it. Instead of waiting for the location and finances for a ‘proper’ building to come together, we made the decision to adopt a more flexible approach by using cheaper means and starting with a temporary space. Considering that the ‘El Morro’ garbage dump is on the verge of being fenced off and environmentally sanitised for the next 25 years – a process that will have a large impact on the community, its economy and its future – the location of the intervention has been positioned right at the edge of the dump. Moravia is a quarter based on recycling economy, naturally these, locally available reclaimed materials, have been adopted for the project. This inverts the design process, starting from the found materials that vary from day to day (like packaging leftovers from local industry, plastic crates and containers, metal parts, etc.).
Principles for the search of possible materials for the realisation of the structure and the internal furnishings were set in a three-weeks workshop during August 2010. The team proceeded to design three spatial units: a reading space for children, an arts and crafts workshop and a multi-functional terrace for events (like the neighbourhood kitchen of Cocineros de Moravia, cooking on Saturdays for over 150 children). A (steel) structure has been built that accommodates the recycled elements, including glass fridge doors or parts of a discarded bus (seats and windows). The body of the bus was used to build a public terrace. All was realised during the first months of 2011, employing craftsmen from the neighbourhood in the furnishing of the spaces. The project was inaugurated on April 15, 2011. With its no-nonsense design, flexibility of use and its strong aesthetics, the Cultural Development Node No.1 – El Morro is the first space of its kind in the neighbourhood and in Medellín.
Initiating a project from this subtle and ‘ground up’ scale makes the extension of the cultural centre more open to the unpredictable dynamics and forces of the development of Moravia – and less protected than the landmark intervention of the Cultural Development Center has been a few years ago. The main objective of this process is to increase access to cultural activities by decentralising space for culture through temporary cheap structures, and in that way create a network of sites to strengthen community development processes.
- [see ] El Puente_lab
- [concept and design team ] STEALTH.unlimited (Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen), architects María Camila Vélez and Yesenia Rodríguez, El Puente_lab (Juan Esteban Sandoval and Alejandro Vasquez Salinas) – with the participation of students from the Architecture Faculty of Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín (Jorge Alberto Arango, Cesar Augusto Muñoz Toro, Jenny Paola Sierra, José León Gómez, German Tamayo)
- [project by ] Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia / Cultural Development Center of Moravia (CDCM) and El Puente_lab
- [guide and community leader ] Cielo María Holguín Ramírez
- [documentation ] Andres Galeano
- [realisation ] Megal S.A., coordinated by: María Camila Vélez, Yesenia Rodríguez and Alejandro Vasquez Salinas (El Puente_lab). Furniture realized by craftsmen and carpenters from Moravia
[timeline ] August 2010 – inauguration April 2011
- [background ] Cultural Development Node No. 1 ‘El Morro’ has been initiated by Centro de Desarrollo Cultural de Moravia (CDCM) and El Puente_lab – platform for artistic and cultural activation; and financed by Alcaldía de Medellin and COMFENALCO Antioquia, with the support of: Mondriaan Foundation (Netherlands), Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (Italy), Unidad Taller del Espacio Público-Departamento Administrativo de Planeación, Gerencia Macroproyecto de Moravia, Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá, Jardín Botánico, Corporación Sentidos, Cocineros de Moravia, and Red Cultural de Moravia.
- [exhibition/publicity ] local press: Espacios reciclados (El Espectador, 18 october 2010), Con cultura se recupera El Morro (El Mondo, 16 april 2011), La cultura viaja en dos contenedores y un bus (Periodico.com, 16 april 2011); Cittadelarte, Biella, Italy, exhibition: Arte al Centro – di una Transformazione Sociale Responsabille (june – september 2011); eme 3, International architecture festival, Barcelona (30 June – 3 July 2011); article at Social Practices Art Network (July 2011)