Program Highlights


Early Summer 2019

Faculty Director

Dr. David Salvesen, Institute for the Environment

Program Highlights

Colombia, once considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world, has become a model of innovative approaches to improving housing, transportation, and social equity. Under the leadership of mayor Enrique Penalosa, Bogota invested in a bus rapid transit system (called Transmillenio) as well as an extensive system of bike routes that dramatically improved the mobility of its residents. In Medellin, a gondola and a system of outdoor escalators allowed residents of an impoverished and largely inaccessible hillside community, Comuna 13, to connect with the metrorail and thus jobs and services in the center city.

Through innovation and resourcefulness, Colombia has enhanced the sustainability of its largest cities and improved the lives of people who live there. In fact, both the Urban Land Institute and the Wall Street Journal have dubbed Medellin a city of innovation. Cartagena has retained much of its old-world charm by preserving its compact, walkable urban core. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the urban design principles that made Cartagena such a liveable and attractive city today were established hundreds of years ago by the Spanish Crown under the Law of the Indies, which set strict standards for the design and layout of cities in the New World.

Students on the three-week program will spend one week in each of the following cities:

  • Medellin – Colombia’s second-largest city. Students will meet with local planners as well as local organizations such as Ciudad Verde, which is working to incorporate greater open space and the reduce air pollution in the city. In addition, students will ride the metrorail, MetroCable, and visit Morro de Moravia – a former landfill where several hundred people lived, scavenging for materials that could be sold for recycling. Today, Morro de Moravia contains a community center, a corridor of art and memory, and a 4-hectare garden on the former landfill. Students will also tour the lively neighborhoods of El Poblado and Envigado.
  • Bogota – The capital of Colombia. Students will meet with local planners and local organizations to discuss several initiatives and projects in Bogota, including Transmillenio, Ciclovia, and the system of bike paths (ciclo rutas). Students will have a chance to ride the Transmillenio (bus rapid transit), tour different neighborhoods, visit the Plaza of the National Congress, bike on the various cycle paths and experience Ciclovia – a car-free day in downtown Bogota.
  • Cartagena – A walled city on the Caribbean coast, the old quarter of Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The focus in Cartagena will be less of modern transformations or initiatives, but on its enduring urban design features, laid down centuries ago, that still resonate today. The city’s streets are a joy to walk and the city hosts numerous plazas, parks, churches, a monastery and historic buildings. Students will meet with local planners and architects and take a guided walking tour of the city. Students will also walk the city independently, making observations about key urban design features that make the old quarter so appealing, walkable, and livable.