Can Design Challenge Inequality?
Founded by Giancarlo Mazzanti, El Equipo Mazzanti is a Colombian Architecture firm which has risen to international prominence as part of the “Medellin Miracle,” a program and period of extensive urban renewal in Medellin, Colombia. Led by Mayor Sergio Fajardo (2002-2007), the movement saw the city transformed from a violent, segmented past into a model for contemporary urban development.
Behind the Medellin miracle was a simple concept: put the best buildings in the worst neighborhoods, and then tie the city together with culture and infrastructure. Medellin now hosts more than fifty urban and architectural renewal projects characterized by this spirit of rebirth.
So began the origins of one of Mazzanti’s most famous buildings: the Parque Biblioteca Espana. Situated on a hilltop in what was once the most violent and stigmatized part of the city, the library/park offers not only a gathering space and community resource, but a symbol of pride for the neighborhood. The building can be used on a 24-hour basis, and hosts a theater, a library, and learning workshops. The principle of ‘multiplication of use’ is found throughout Mazzanti’s portfolio – the more functions one can draw out of a building, the more diverse its appeal. If all different segments of a community or city are using the building, it gives rise to social cohesion and cooperation.
Mazzanti’s practice has blurred the lines between social design and what might be considered a more traditional practice of architecture. As Mazzanti himself puts it: “Any project is a social project; thinking that ‘architecture is social inclusion’ does not make much sense.”
Through this model, Mazzanti illustrates that there need not be an ‘either/or’ mentality that binds the practice of architects. All design can be social, if approached in the right spirit.