Bogotá, architectural and social challenges

Bogota, exploration of a sprawling city

We are still in Bogotá, huge city of more than 7 million inhabitants. It is the 29th most populous city in the world. It is also one of the few capitals of this size not to have metro or tram. Honestly the buses are hardly sufficient and it took us some time to get along with the public transport. More than once we had to ask our way to the locals … and they did not always know…

We told you it is easy…

An approach to the social divisions

The Colombian social organization is interesting. The population is divided into 6 strata. The first 1 is the poorest, and the number 6 group the richest with the most envied social status. To be part of one or the other group depends on your salary and on the place where you live. Briefly the north of the city is for the richest and the south for the poorest. The water and energy bills are established according to the group you belong to so that the richer ones subsidize the poorest. But this organization reflects a very strong inequality in the distribution of wealth.

Video of Bolivar square where you can cross all the social strata in one place

Another city’s heart

In many developing countries, part of the population built its own housing and infrastructure solutions, such as the slums in India or the favelas in Brazil. These “informal” areas are particularly large in Bogotá and several hundred thousand people live here in difficult conditions.


In Colombia the reasons for the extent of the slums and their density are numerous. Because of the war millions of people had to move from the countryside to the city, moreover many people choose the capital for economic reasons. For example, nowadays many Venezuelans leave their country to settle here.  Several building companies are interested in the lands where these fragile populations live in order to build new housing reserved for the higher social strata. It is a process of gentrification particularly harmful for the city as well as for these people.

Magnificent views of the city can be found inside the favelas itself

Fortunately, the communities that live here are particularly supportive and show a strong social dynamism. In addition, several projects aim to improve the living conditions and to defend these houses legally. Thus Bogota has to face many transformations particularly interesting not only from an architectural  but also from a social point of view.

Our guide in the favelas

The professor of architecture Andres Sanchez Arias, who works at the University Piloto, kindly presented us some of his team’s different projects that aim to improve the favela inhabitants’ living conditions.nHe guided us to the heart of the favelas, to places where tourists never go, to explain to us his approach in more details.


In the next article I will share with you my journey in a favela of Bogota, some projects and of course  the particularly interesting architectural approach of Andres.


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