The second year of my Ph.D. is wrapping up, and it has been a busy one. I have not had much time to update this blog, and in fact have severely neglected it, but I am looking forward to offering more regular posts on my research now that I am finished with coursework and already setting the groundwork for a dissertation project.

My current objects of analysis are the urbanism discourses of the current mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, and the prominent Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona. In the past few months I have honed my attention more closely on the analysis of these discourses on the city, which correspond and diverge in interesting ways. What interests me about Peñalosa’s discourse, and the discourse of cultura ciudadana more widely, is its privileging of the notion of the public and the centrality that design and culture play in mobilizing this vision of the public. The use by Cultura ciudadana (and vice versa) of the work of perhaps the architect that has had the most influence in shaping the material space of Bogotá (Salmona), is a phenomenon I find worth considering for its implications relating to the utility of art and design within current development ideologies, particularly those whose object of management is the city in Latin America.

The lines of investigation I am following for the moment include continued reading about cultura ciudadana, continued analysis of its discourses, as well as more engagement with secondary literature on the subject. Luckily, Stanford university has a good collection of material relating to cultura ciudadana.

I am faced with the need to also delve into work relating to the POT (Plan de Organización Territorial), an important administrative instrument developed in Bogotá to manage the growth, development, and management of the city. I need to understand the development of this instrument from a historical perspective and in terms of its current status: what institutional and political preconditions allowed for its development; what political, administrative, civil, or society actors pushed for its creation or had a stake in it; what are its main institutional outlines in terms of structure and function; what elements of the POT come together to forge something akin to a discourse on the space of the city that remain relevant for my overall project?

On the other hand, initial work on Salmona leads me to suspect that he has received little by way of critical scholarship, though this is only an initial conjecture which has yet to be verified. Stanford holds only two taschen-style presentation volumes on his work, both by Ricardo Castro. I have read the first one, essentially a hagiography. I am looking forward to reading the second one soon. Archives on Salmona are in Bogotá and Paris. A trip to take a more careful look at these will probably be warranted soon.

The state  of architecture in general in Colombia is of interest to me even as a sort of oblique indicator of certain trends in the city. The state of Salmona as a sort of García Marquez of Colombian architecture; the analogies between his figure and the generation of Latin American architects he belonged to and the Latin American literary Boom; to me these two factors beg inquiry into the ideological nature of Salmona’s lettered molding of Bogotá, as part of an overall development of the city. Trips to Bogotá are also more in urgency with this in mind, as I look to take a closer look at Salmona’s works, writings, and also at the works of lesser known Colombian architects who might be following different lines of thought on the city.

 

 

 

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