A few days in Medellin


Over the holidays I had the opportunity to make a short stop in Colombia en route to my home country, Peru. I stayed in Medellin, a city I always felt curious to know more about. Not too long ago Medellin was known as the fortress of the cocaine druglord, Pablo Escobar. Two decades ago it was considered as the most dangerous and murderous city on the planet, nowadays however it has transformed into a prime example of urban development and social inclusion in the third world.

Although the purpose of my visit to the city was tied to some personal matters (visiting relatives and friends) I did have some time to visit a couple places of my own interest. I was mainly curious about a couple of public buildings, some parks, and the metro system-- places I heard about during architecture school. I recommend reading this article about Medellin architecture renaissance.

I've been told that the best of Medellin's architecture and planning does not happen in the private realm but rather in the public realm. The most renowned buildings are libraries, hospitals, and parks, as opposed to fancy offices, boutiques, or restaurants. However, these buildings can be difficult to visit in a big third world. For example, the España library, the most modern and design-award winning library in the city is located in the poorest and most dangerous neighborhood. In order to get there, one can take the "metro" (a very reliable public train that runs across the city) and then the "metrocable"(a gondola lift system) to the "barrios"(the poorest neighborhoods in Colombia). I heard that not too long ago access to this 'barrio' was almost impossible because of the lack of public transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately for me the library was closed and completely covered because of maintenance the day I was planning to visit it. Here are a few pictures of the places I visited that day.

I also had the chance to visit 'El Peñol de Guatapé', a gigantic 10,000,000 ton rock sitting in the middle of a valley 86km away from Medellin. It's relatively easy to climb thanks to a stone staircase that was built into the rock. After scaling 659 steps to the top there are magnificent 360-degree views of the surrounding land. Following that climb, I took a tour around Guatapé, a colorful and eccentric little town. Here almost every building is covered with a vibrant wall art called 'zocalos'. Every building has its own 'zocalo' and they show an artistic display of the activity taken place inside that building. Overall I had a great time in Medellin and I believe I will definitely plan another trip there sometime.

Sebastian Marticorena was an illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio from 2014-2016.