Carlos Uribe, an artist, who runs the center, showed off the beehive of below-ground practice rooms, the dance studio and theater opening onto the outdoors, the library and courtyard, flanked by low ramps, providing a desperately needed safe and attractive public space, where small children romped before watchful teachers among burbling fountains that recalled the Alhambra.
The authorities have lately been moving residents from the unsafe landfill next door to new housing on the city’s periphery, which is understandable but a striking case of thoughtless urban planning, because the move isolates the residents from their jobs and what had become their neighborhood, with Salmona’s building as its anchor.
“Of course we will continue to improve schools and neighborhoods,” Gaviria, the mayor, had told me. “But we also need to care for the mountains and the river, which to us are like the rivers and Central Park in New York.”
My impression from that conversation was that it’s politically easier to propose new plans for burying highways and building trams in the hills than to untangle old problems, and that the city still had to be vigilant when it comes to housing policies.
I met just before I left with eight young architects at the Museum of Modern Art, a steel mill from the 1930s, handsomely converted. “We’re still not thoughtful in terms of social housing, mixed neighborhoods,” agreed Veronica Ortiz Murcia, a partner at Arquitectura y Espacio Urbano.
“There’s a general feeling among young architects of a missed opportunity here,” said another architect, Catalina Ortiz. That view was echoed by Camilo Restrepo and Alejandro Gonzalez.
Their skepticism seemed almost the most encouraging sign I had encountered in Medellin. The city has made big strides, after all, using cutting-edge architecture as a catalyst. But here young architects press for yet more creative solutions. They take for granted as their jobs both formal innovation and also the humanitarian role of architectural activism, leapfrogging an older generation of architects and others who have remained fixated on eye-catching buildings to grace the covers of glossy magazines.
It’s this restless energy among an up-and-coming generation, in a city where people already take seriously the goal of greater equality, that seems to promise change will continue.