Reclaiming Public Space


"When public spaces are successful […] they will increase opportunities to participate in communal activity. This fellowship in the open nurtures the growth of public life, which is stunted by the social isolation of ghettos and suburbs. In the parks, plazas, markets, waterfronts, and natural areas of our cities, people from different cultural groups can come together in a supportive context of mutual enjoyment. As these experiences are repeated, public spaces become vessels to carry positive communal meanings". (Carr, Francis, Rivlin and Stone, 1993, p. 344)

Nowadays around 3.5 billion people live in cities or urban areas. For several cultural, geographic, political and economic transformations, human settlement has changed dramatically during the last century. Although cities have been interpreted as a core area for development, education, social interaction and culture  where the majority of its inhabitants are looking for a better future, there are many existing challenges in these areas when it comes to environmental and social issues.

In order to face some of these existing challenges in cities and urban areas, world-wide governments and policies have been aligned to promote inclusiveness and to encourage citizens to participate in the development of a civic culture.

A famous example of city that has been struggling for decades for its transformation, is Medellin, one of the most important and largest cities of Colombia. In 1991 Medellin was classified as one of the most dangerous cities in the world with a homicide rate of 381 for every 100,000 inhabitants and a very strong presence of drug cartels and criminal bands. To achieve its current positive situation, in which Medellin is globally recognized as one of the most innovative cities, different mayors and local governments promoted several policies which aimed to recover the damaged social tissue and the understanding of public space in mainly the lowest socio-economical areas of the city.

An Specific case of the public space recovery

When Kompaz took a closer look at actors who contribute to reduce inequality in Medellin and that have helped considerably to the recovery of public space, we found the specific case of Uvas. 

The articulated life units (UVA) are initiatives which are focused on people. It is a co-created proposal that works everyday to transform the reality of the neighborhoods and communities of Medellin and its metropolitan area.

Thanks to its contributions and the combined efforts of the City hall of Medellin, Inder and Fundación Epm,these meeting spaces and social inclusion around culture, education, recreation and the new technologies have been strengthening  from the construction of  common codes construction and solidarity.  

8 of the 22 of  projected UVA are managed by Inder with a recreational and sportive approach.  The remaining 14 are operated by Fundación EPM and built around EPM water tanks, an enterprise  with the slogan “ remove the fence to get closer”. The enterprise opens these zones that used to be restricted areas and it transforms it into public space for the use and enjoyment of everyone. In total the project will deliver 120.000 new m2 of public space to the city where all the UVA community could live a transformational experience for Medellin.

Activity: Build a City