Architecture in Medellín

Here are a few of the highlighted architectural delights a visitor may find while on tour of this amazingly culture rich city:

Uribe Palace of Culture

The Belgian architect Agustin Goovaerts came to Medellin in 1920. Inspired by art nouveau, then at the height of fashion in Europe, he made the plans for this building which was the Governor of Antioquia’s office until 1987. Now renamed the Rafael Uribe Palace of Culture, it is the home of the department’s archives and the setting for a variety of events. It was originally built as part of a general re-planning of this area of the city with the expansion of the Plazuela Nutibara, the widening of Calle Calibio and Calle Boyaca and the covering of the Santa Elena stream. The ironwork dome on top of the building was imported from Belgium in 1928.

Metropolitan Cathedral

This church is built in the Romanesque style with Byzantine details. Designed by France’s Carlos Carre, construction began in 1890 and took more than 40 years to complete and utilized 1,120,000 fired adobe blocks. It is currently one of the world’s largest structures created using this building element. The canopy over the high altar was designed by the Salesian Juan Buscaglioni and made from fine Italian marble enriched with a mix of beautiful colors. The result is a gorgeous cupola supported by four columns set on decorated pedestals, crested by the Cross.

Coltejer Tower

Constructed in 1972, this 574 foot tall massive building encompasses 37 floors and currently stands as the tallest building in Medellin. In addition, it is the 4th tallest building in all of Colombia. Located downtown in the El Centro district, it reminds us of the wealth and power of the city, and has become one of the hallmarks of urban life here. Framed by the Andes Mountains to the east, this building is majestic in appearance and is marked in stark contrast against the lush, green highland mountains that creates a tropical backdrop to this modern structure. The buildings architect was Esguerra Saenz Urdaneta Samper.

Edificio Empresas Publicas de Medellin

The final construction for this modern building was completed in 1997. This structure is also known as Medellin’s intelligent building and stands at a modest 266 feet and encompasses 12 floors. It is currently the home to the public utility company known by EPM and provides a variety of services to the people of Medellin including electricity generation and distribution, water distribution and treatment, distribution of natural gas and provision of telecommunications services. It is estimated that EPM creates approximately $400 million dollars per year for the city. As such, the city of Medellin is hailed as not only one of the most advanced technology based cities in all of South America, but one of the best run from a financial standpoint.

Biblioteca EPM

Inaugurated on June 2, 2005, this epic structure stands as a clear statement of the social projection by this great Antiochian company, EPM. Dedicated to culture, education, science, industry and technology, the EPM Library is open free to the public and is located on the western side of Plaza Cisneros and sits adjacent to the Alpujarra government buildings. Constructed of glass and natural stone, it’s clear and distinct lines are reminiscent of pyramidal architectural style and hint at the knowledge that is contained within.

Palacio Nacional / Carrera Carabobo

This area is a true testament to the civic heart and soul of the city. The city administration wanted a public space to fortify civic culture and decided to convert Carrera Carabobo into a pedestrian walkway. This little corridor acts as a city artery flowing with the lifeblood of its citizens. One of the buildings located there is the old “Palacio Nacional”, a national monument, restored and adapted as a shopping mall in 1994.

Civic Activity @ Palacio Nacional

True to its purpose, this public space has become the scene for a number of community activities. One of the most spectacular civic events was held on Monday, February 4, 2008 in which more than 500,000 of Medellin’s citizens marched for an end to the kidnapping and ransom of more than 600 of Colombia’s citizens (including three government contractors from the USA) by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, otherwise known as the FARC. The FARC is a guerrilla terrorist organization responsible for bloody attacks and murderous treason against its government and citizens.

Parque Explora

In true Medellin fashion, this area of the city was converted into a truly spectacular gathering spot and entertainment Mecca for its citizens. Combining multiple social elements into one grand celebration of civic transformation is what this park is all about. In the center are located 5 cubed buildings that house multiple interactive rooms combining the senses of touch, sight and sound. The central objective of Parque Explora is to allow an approach to science and technology that engages the visitor to interact fully thus enhancing the discovery and learning process. This master plan also includes other areas of the park dedicated to a botanical garden, a planetarium, an amusement park complete with rides and attractions as well as an aquarium. Opened to the public in December 2007, this park is popular with families, students and visitors from other countries. The University of Antioquia is also located nearby as a complimentary attachment to the richness of education and cultural advancement of the area. As if this were not enough, Parque de los Deseos (Park of the Good Wishes) is also located just on the other side of the metro station (Universidad or University Station). Aerobic exercises are one of the main daily activities that occur here.

Plaza Mayor

As a leading textile exporter to the USA and the world, Medellin was in need of a new convention center. The answer is Plaza Mayor and it is an ultra modern building designed to meet the current and future needs of this city on the move. Hustle and bustle is what this convention center is all about and plays host to multiple events per year dedicated to industry and commerce. One of the most popular events is Colombiatex, held each year in January. This exhibit to the Americas and rest of the world highlights the fashion and textiles industry. Boasting more than 9,000 national and international buyers and guests, this event attracts more than 280 national and international journalists each year to cover the 400-500 exhibitors who come from all over America including Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, USA, Honduras, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Another important event at Plaza Mayor occurring every year in June is ColombiaMODA. At this event fashion and clothing are on display models come from all over the world to work the event. During June, Medellin truly is a city full of models and high fashion. Click here for photos.

Fact: International brand name clothiers such as Polo, Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Levi’s, Diesel and others dedicate part of their manufacturing in Medellín.

Parque Biblioteca España en Santo Domingo Salvio

Designed by Mazzanti Arquitectos and located in the northern part of the city high in the mountains rests a sleeping giant. Much like a volcano rises from the earth as it emerges in birth, so too does Santo Domingo. Three massive non symmetric geometric buildings house informational resources for Medellín’s citizens. Instead of serving as passive repositories of textual knowledge (although they do harbor small collections) the buildings’ main focus is housing a myriad of programs, resources, and services dedicated to all ages with an emphasis on small children.

Parque Biblioteca León de Greiff en La Ladera

Also designed by Mazzanti Arquitectos, this library and resource center uses some of the same land integration techniques as Santo Domingo above. Whereas, Santo Domingo boastfully exerts it dominance by jutting out of the top of a hillside in grand fashion, La Ladera takes a more conservative approach in its placement into the hillside. Symmetric in design, these three buildings follow order in a more casual approach and manner than their contemporary counterpart, Santo Domingo. Built on grounds that once stood a prison, La Ladera is not only a wonderful learning center, but a testament to change and the idea of moving forward. Visitors to La Ladera can enjoy the library’s book collection, reading rooms for children and adults, exhibition hall, recreation rooms and internet cafes. There are also sports facilities on site for those more interested in being active for the day.

Interesting: This is a fascinating blog written by a Berkeley, California graduate student studying architecture who visited Medellín in August of 2007. With a flair for penmanship and a sharp eye for architectural detail, Andrew Ballard describes his personal and professional opinions of the two libraries above, Parque Biblioteca España en Santo Domingo Salvio and Parque Biblioteca León de Greiff en La Ladera. Click here for blog.