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Echeverri & Fajardo

Sergio Fajardo, former Mayor of Medellín, Colombia, and Alejandro Echeverri, former Director of Urban Projects, implemented a bold and ambitious public works program that transformed what was “the world’s deadliest city” into a vibrant, more livable place. Beginning in 2004, Echeverri and Fajardo led teams of local architects, training them to build striking libraries, schools, parks, and science and cultural centers in some of Medellín’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Each project was built in consultation with neighborhood residents, and paired with sweeping social programs, including micro-lending schemes to encourage small businesses.

Their work contributed to a reduction in crime and the emergence of a nascent tourism industry while helping link Medellín’s disenfranchised to the city’s cultural and economic fabric.

A number of these regenerative projects have become landmarks. One of Medellín’s most-visited attractions is the iconic Parque Biblioteca España, perched in the hilltops of Santo Domingo, a barrio once notorious for drug violence. Echeverri and Farjardo also helped extend the city’s modern railway by building a cable car system that connects some of Medellín’s poorest and most isolated neighborhoods to the rest of the city. Today, residents from the sprawling informal settlements on the hillside have more opportunities to take advantage of schools and the growing construction, textile, and tourism economies of the city.

These architectural and urban projects have “changed the skin of the city,” in Farjardo’s words. A guiding principle of these public works projects was “el efecto demostrativo,” or using the “power of example”—in this case, the dramatic symbolism of modern architecture—to instill a sense of pride and possibility in the minds of local residents and beyond.