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Diana Wiesner

is passionate about enhancing the landscapes, conservation and cultural values of her native Colombia, in South America.

Here the population of the capital city of Bogota has grown from less than a million in the 1950s to some 9 million today! Problems abound – overcrowding, poor open space, neglected waterways and forests, unregulated construction and inadequate public transport.

As a landscape architect, she is not much interested in ‘pretty gardens’. Instead, she seeks to integrate cities through landscape networks.

Her approach is lucid and exciting. She works holistically, drawing disciplines and communities together, focusing on core community values. She says public areas have potential inspiration – for education, cultural events, environmental and ecological enhancement, sustainability, aesthetic impact, quality landscape construction, recreation, stimulus … and joy!

Diana believes that her approach, with its strong sense of mission, provides meaning and integrated, culturally based place-making. She often works with mountains and waterways.

Her philosophical and planning overview is complemented by projects that range from the power and poetry of a water droplet in a labyrinth path in China to a major Library Park complex of 55,000 m² in Bogota.

Diana has had an outstanding career in just 20 years as a landscape architect, receiving many awards and being keenly sought for international conferences.

 

Abstracts

Diana Wiesner

Lecture One: Landscape Networks in Bogota, Colombia

Key Words:

Rapid development, urban ecology, marginalised communities; community action and parks of the third millennium.

Bogotá is located at an altitude of eight thousand five hundred feet above the sea level (2,640m), on a plateau in the eastern range of the Andes Mountains. These mountains fork out through Colombia before reaching the Caribbean.

The city is surrounded by mountains and hills.The plateau, on which the city of Bogotá now sits, was once a prehistoric lake. Due to geological transformations, the lake slowly began to drain. The plateau became inhabited by sedentary tribes.

The native people only ventured into the nearby mountains to carry out religious ceremonies, which involved sacred trees and water ponds. In fact, the original legend of El Dorado is centered around a lagoon not far from Bogotá.

The region´s population surpasses 8 million seven hundred thousand people, and is home to twenty-one percent of Colombia´s total population. The average age of Colombians is 28. I am told that in Australia in 2011, it was 37 and in France for example, it is 39.7.

Bogota was founded in 1538, and until the mid-Twentieth Century had a population of less than one million. Urban development centered on streets and vehicles. Because of the booming population, the city has not been able to keep up with many basic needs.

Between 1923 and 1990, fifteen urban plans were developed for Bogotá, the most famous of which were the Development Plans of Karl Brunner (1938) and Soto Bateman (1944), the Pilot Plan of Le Corbusier (1950) and the Regulator Plan of Wiener and Sert (1953). However, the majority of these plans were implemented only partially, or never left paper at all.

The challenge today is how to save the natural resources of the city and the region. Until now, most plans have dealt almost exclusively with Bogota.

Beginning in the nineteen nineties, a new urban vision was born in which green infrastructure became a priority. A major arborisation plan was undertaken to improve biodiversity. Lots of space for pedestrians – less space for cars.

An entirely new network of bicycle paths was constructed to connect key areas of the city with the principal District parks and roadways. Public libraries and schools were integrated into neighborhoods. People can now enjoy and participate in urban life as never before.

Two additional changes have helped to humanize the megalopolis. One is the ciclovia, which is the closing of major thoroughfares on Sundays and holidays, so people can cycle, jog, and skate. The other is the mass transit system using exclusive traffic lanes and biodiesel powered buses.

However, a great deal has yet to be done. There are three essential elements that must be integrated into a regional network: The Mountains, the Hydrological Network and the Bogota River.

First, the mountains, which form both the most important topographical and visual urban borders.

This reserve, whose mountains reach altitudes of Ten thousand five hundred feet above sea level and cover an area of 34 thousand acres has an average rainfall of 70 inches and it includes a wide diversity of unique ecosystems.

Bogota’s Mountain Corridor will traverse 53 kilometers from the northern tip to the southern tip of the city with three main strategies: 1.) The social strategy intends to bring people into contact with the mountains and encourage a sense of collective ownership of the land; 2.) The biophysical strategy seeks to maintain and restore environmental assets of the corridor, increase the ecological connectivity of the hills with the city and the region, and to restore ecosystem biodiversity; and 3.) The spatial infrastructure strategy seeks to physically demarcate the boundary of the city with the Reserve through pathways, learning stations, and lookout points in order to control urban development on the mountain’s slopes.

Covering 415 hectares, the Bogotá Mountain Corridor will create an edge between the city and the Forest Reserve, and will promote a civic awareness and environmental culture centered around the mountains. This project will create additional spaces for recreation, and allow us to appropriate a territory that has always been ours, but has historically only been seen from afar. People will have a more intimate connection to the landscape, contributing to an improved social condition. Bogota’s Mountain Corridor will connect upper class areas, middle class and working class neighborhoods, squatters´ villages, school yards and other diverse human settlements.

The second element is made up of the hydrological resources whose source is at 4 thousand meters above sea level. Here is where most of Bogota´s water comes from.

Adjacent to Sumapaz national park, and the creation of a multi-use protected rural landscapes. In the highlands there are also landscapes in which the natural component predominates, although highly fragmented in some areas. This is the case of the easterly-located highlands, such as the Chingaza National Park that provided 80% of the water to the city. There are in this part of the territory efforts to stabilize land use mosaics and enhance natural connectivity through a large-scale conservation corridor (Sguerra et al. 2011).

The region and the city are vitally connected. So, planning must take place from a macro perspective that includes the high mountains, the Bogotá River from its source and the entire hydrological system.

Four rivers run through the city and flow into the Bogota River ( natural border) It also has at least 100 streams. Currently, streams start in the mountains, but when they reach the city, they simply become concrete-lined canals.

But proposals exist to take advantage of this water so that it too may form an urban network: a Hydrological Network

Our aim is to recreate a hydrologic network adapted to the urban environment. This means collecting rainwater and moving it through new urban developments

The result would transform not only urban planning and construction, but would also create greater awareness of water´s role in people´s lives.

This change is from the purely functional to something more integrated into daily life.

In the future, streets could be built alongside waterways. In the rainy season the waterways would collect and move excess rainwater. And in the dry season the waterways would be for passive recreation.

Bogota River Region

The river has never been considered an ecological or recreational priority by local government. It has been used almost exclusively as a water way to be used to carry liquid, or as a source for agricultural irrigation, and consequently it is now very polluted.

As the river has been historically treated only in hydraulic terms, we imagined not only what the river’s border would be like in ten years from now, but fifty or two hundred years from now as well.   we proposed a more natural way to give life to both the river and the city.

There will be three water purification plants along the river, combined with artificial wetlands, which, will in turn, feed natural wetlands.

Three tributaries feed the Bogotá River, and at the junction of one of them, an artificial delta has been planned. This delta will be used for aquatic recreation.

The remaining natural wetlands and streams are also part of the restoration plan and are being converted into public parks.

The marsh lands have become heavily sedimented and so they must be dredged. Dredging will create diverse water depths, and bank contours, fostering different kinds of ecosystems, biodiversity and new landscape perspectives .

The Bogotá River has never really played a major part in the urban and visual imagination of the city.

In conclusion we discussed what it means to have an overriding philosophy and we concluded that the most important thing we can bring to future generations was to imagine the border between the city and its region as a diversity of scenarios, we wanted to harmonize human-made landscapes—which require sizeable upkeep—with those made by nature—and, which, are essentially unpredictable and full of surprises.

The river is not simply a natural wonder, but rather it has to be the axis for the region and the city in many terms: as transport, ecological corridor and others.

Third Millenium Park

Built from July 2002, 16 hectares park .

The District decided to knock down 602 properties where houses, stores, bodegas and warehouses were previously located. In the past “El Cartucho” was one of the most deteriorated and dangerous sectors of the city, but now the park brings a sense of pride to the surrounding neighborhoods of Santa Fe, La Estanzuela, St. Bernard and Eduardo Santos. The Third Millennium Park changed the appearance of downtown and now the two million people who pass by daily enjoy a new space for recreation, social interaction, and relaxation. Also, this is a place where people can contemplate and be removed from the stress and fast pace of the city.

The statement of the park will look to:

*  Be coherent with the conditions of its base (soil and topography)

  • Rescue the footprints (San Francisco and San Agustín rivers, tramway line, among others)
  • Appraise the physical elements of patrimonial or economic value and the activities that generate around it (existing buildings)
  • Be receptive with respect to the influence of the activities that the neighborhoods and nearby borders stamp on it (La Candelaria, San Bernardo and San Victorino and the Transmillenium route of access)
  • Give priority to urban relations with existing and proposed public spaces and to the relationships with the city and its region

The activities promoted at the inside and subsoil of the park will support the solution of their sustainability and respond to the social, educational and cultural requirements of the sector. The park must be an active urban component with a meaning of center: heart (as attractor of users) and lung (as benefactor of the aesthetics and environment of the place).

The good intentions behind all of these projects are based upon the labors of a multitude of professionals from many disciplines. But giving them life and sustainability in a nation like Colombia is difficult, because we lack not only financial resources but political will and know-how. We hope for a better day in which the average citizen will be the most important actor in transforming and protecting our mega-diverse biological patrimony.

 

 

Lecture Two:   21st Century community projects in China and Colombia

Julio Mario Santo Domingo Library Park

The concept of an altogether library, concert hall and Julio Mario Santodomingo Park has given priority to the following concepts, setting trends and breaking traditional patterns of the public management in Bogotá, which has generated a great input to the discussion of future encounter spaces:

  1. Offering a social environment that can help increase values like solidarity, equality and respect to one another, making the public space a continuous between the exterior and the interior.
  2. Respecting the preexisting geography such as stigmatized trees in Bogotá: for example, giant eucalyptus that have been part of the remembrance of the zone, retracting the building backward, and leaving a generous zone for the encounter and joy.
  3. Getting the common and the ordinary to become an important value: including species that don’t require maintenance and that remember the common or the native in a newer, more ecological, debated and questioned aesthetics.
  4. Breaking traditional schemes established in rigid public laws, proposing permeable and recycled materials that are “forbidden”: crushed materials as brick, wood and charcoal, or bricks which are permeable to this materials.
  5. Letting the free expression of the individual in materials that facilitate it such as crushed brick in the ground.
  6. Give priority to the arrival experience, moving the building and transforming the entrance in a path that gives priority to disabled people. The encounter staircase-ramp is the element that allows that the city’s most important interior concert hall doesn’t require artificial cooling systems. (Energy efficiency)
  7. Aesthetic impact in the quality of a built landscape with an enduring meaning in the surrounding environment – improvement in pre-existing contextual conditions.
  8. Economy in the construction and low impact in the project’s life-cycle. High projection in the influx and a big meaning in the cultural context in which it’s projected.

It’s contribution to the public space has been of an extraordinary benefit to Usaquén and Suba’s population, two northern districts from Bogotá. The library and park’s extension in total is of 55.000 m². A place where visitors can live the experience of lecture and cultural events, and in where the individual enriches with the permeability and flexibility of the spaces.

As to the park’s vegetation, the existing species were conserved and a restoration process was started, with the plantation of native species that give identity, such as “Yarumos”, among many other species that will contribute, in the future, to a bigger biodiversity.

The Julio Mario Santo Domingo’s cultural center offers various educational and interdisciplinary activities, aiming that, the more people immersed in the nature, the more landscape culture is created. It is home of diverse socioeconomic origins, and it’s located near various educational institutions, such as nurseries, schools and colleges; this makes the library and park an opportunity and a collective space to share.

SAN RAFAEL PARK

Regional Park for the country site near Bogotá and one of the most important water reserves of the region. All design implemented strategies of sustainability: Innovation and knowledge transfer (activities around environmental education); Equity and social integration (integration, not exclusion); Ecological quality and efficient use of resources (low-impact infrastructure enhancing the geographic components, increasing biodiversity, protecting the water resource and valuing service users.); Image and Identity and economic Sustainability.

DROPLET PARK, CHINA

The power and the poetry of a water droplet in a labyrinth path, through crests and valleys, appears in a garden in the form of diverse Colombian and Andean landscapes.

In the garden we look back to value the basic, the subtle and the obvious as the most powerful of all.

The drop creates a rhythmic, silent and harmonious movement. This movement transmits everyone to a peaceful, joyful and meditation state. Every visitor gets involved in a route through some of the amazing environments of the Andean landscape.

The beginning of the path seams like a moorland with Puya spp, unripe grapes and Stachis, that rapidly transforms into a fog forest surrounded by Querquis mongolica spp, Junglans mandshurica spp, Alnus japonica spp, Weinmannia trichosperma spp, Dicksonia spp, Lophosoria spp and Dryopteri spp. Some stone slopes collect rainwater, making moss appear spontaneously over their surface.

Slowly, the path of the forest disappears through the fog produced by the nebulizers, blurring the visitor’s sight. The paving of the path allows everyone to write, telling a common story that joins all the visitors in a tale that comes out of experiencing the garden. This is a story told through drawings and sounds of bamboo and wind.

The structure is surrounded by flowered slopes and by an orchard of Zeas mays spp, Solanum spp, Physalis spp and Tropaolum spp, among other species.

The end of the path takes the visitor to the state of childhood, the representation of the most sublime state of men, in a seesaw game of “palos de lluvia” (rain poles), indigenous music instrument of Colombia.

 

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