From illegal settlers to city gardeners
20 JUL 2020
Pedagogical urbanism refers to how transformed public spaces can teach residents on how to connect with one another and become more engaged citizens. The Circumvent Garden in Medellín demonstrates how illegal settlers were converted into active players in the city’s transformation.
Case study 9
|Type||Urban regeneration/ social programmes|
|Sections||1 In brief
2 Key issues before project
6 Replicable ideas
Medellín’s Metropolitan Green Belt, also known as the Circumvent Garden © ACI Medellín
- Medellín’s Metropolitan Green Belt, also known as the Circumvent Garden (Jardín Circunvalar de Medellín), is a green belt introduced along the urban-rural edge of the eastern and western mountain ridges of the city to control urban expansion in the hillside communities and create communal spaces.
- The project also aims to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants, protect the fragile ecosystem, and allow the local community to participate in its construction through pedagogical urbanism.
Key issues before the project
Path of Life © ACI Medellín
- Indiscriminate use of land and expansion of the urban-rural periphery have resulted in the degradation of the ecosystem and loss of natural groundcover, exposing the area to adverse weather events and increased geological risk.
- Serious socio-spatial segregation, with the poorest and most marginalised communities living in illegal hillside settlements.
- Inaccessibility of these informal settlements leading to their disconnection from the rest of the city.
- Isolated hillside settlements were excluded and gang-controlled, leading to rampant violence.
Leadership and governance
An inclusive workforce to transform the area © ACI Medellín
- Medellín emphasises good governance, transparency, social security and a participative society, with a strong common focus on improving quality of life, especially in its poorest areas.
- Recognising that citizen participation is important for good governance, the city leaders prioritised equal opportunities for all for a comprehensive human development. The development of the Circumvent Garden is an example of how even illegal settlers were given equal opportunities.
- Adopting creative and non-conventional approaches allow the city leaders to advance social innovation and innovative public transport initiatives to pursue social equity and improve quality of life.
- Medellín believes that strengthening citizen participation through participatory budgeting and pedagogical urbanism can help to restore the confidence of the people in the state by implementing a model that seeks to create an inclusive and sustainable city with opportunities for all.
Creativity and innovation
A centre to train residents at Circumvent Garden © ACI Medellín
- The Circumvent Garden controls further urban expansion by defining the city limits, setting a physical boundary beyond which building is not allowed.
- The city took the unusual step of legalising existing informal settlements that were structurally sound and improving them, rather than evicting them. Those at risk of landslides are relocated within the same neighbourhood under a ‘sustainable neighbourhood’ programme.
- Local residents are trained in farming, construction and landscaping, generating a sense of ownership through active community participation and ensuring social sustainability.
- The project also aims to increase the city’s public spaces (such as sports facilities and community farms) from 3.8 square metres to 15 square metres per inhabitant under the city masterplan.
- Multi-modal routes connect the once-isolated areas to the rest of city, hence opening up to jobs and opportunities, and act as a social equaliser that helps to break down boundaries and reduce crime.
- 41 hectares of ecological restoration were completed to protect the Pan de Azúcar hill and the distances from creeks.
- 120,000 new trees are planted, of which 50,000 are crop trees, allowing harvest and generation of economy.
- Over 12,000 garden varieties are planted to beautify the surroundings of the transformed spaces, and 31,000 square metres of gardens are planted that benefit some 490 families for self-sufficiency through barter trades and sales for surpluses.
- Two eco-parks are built and three others under construction, which will be connected to a footpath called ‘Camino de la Vida’ (Path of Life), with 3.8 kilometres already built.
- Under the targets of the city masterplan, the project aims to increase public space from 3.8 square metres to 15 square metres per inhabitant.
- More than 49,000 people are mobilised in the processes of socialisation, participation, workshops, tours and events.
- Around 2,500 people are trained in agro-ecology, partnerships, construction, and landscape work, with 95 percent of the workers being local residents, of which 30 percent are women.
Urban farming at the Circumvent Garden © ACI Medellín
- The non-conventional approach of how the city approached the issue of illegal settlers on the state-owned land along the urban-rural fringe could inspire other cities in similar situations to achieve a win-win scenario for all. O