Colombia is one of the biological treasures of the planet and is ranked the second most biodiverse country on Earth. Located in the tropics, it has a confluence of different geomorphological and ecological systems, such as the Andes, the Pacific Coast, the Caribbean Coast, the Llanos and the Colombian Amazonian region, with altitudes ranging from sea level to 18,865 ft (5,750m).
Despite the recent peace agreement with the FARC, Colombia remains a fluid place with challenging issues. The country has the second largest population of internally displaced persons in the world, and displacement has mainly been from rural lands to urban centres.
Most cities are in proximity to productive agricultural areas and rich ecosystems. However, demographic pressures, limited infrastructure and no overarching territorial ecosystem-based plans have led to the gradual erosion of urban, rural and natural systems. While a high percentage of the country is currently undisturbed, the increasing threat of urbanisation, monoculture and extractive mining practices put Colombia at the front lines of climate change.
Colombia’s vast water supplies, including the glaciers on some of Colombia’s highest peaks, are diminishing at rates ahead of even the more alarming projections and the mismanagement of these supplies has led scientists to predict water shortages within the next 30 years.
With over 8 million people, the capital is the third largest city in South America, after São Paulo and Lima. Located in the center of the country on a high plateau known as the Bogotá Savannah, Bogotá is the political, economic, administrative, financial and cultural hub of the country. Twenty districts cover approximately 1,587km2 (613mi2) of the Eastern Cordillera, the easternmost range of the Andes.
Workshop programming will start in the capital city. The group will visit important sites and meet with key partner organisations in the area such as the Humboldt Institute, a premier research center examining Colombia's biodiversity, hydrology, genetics and ecology. The group will also meet with key experts and administrative officials who are working on plans for the watershed that entail balancing strategies for water sourcing and water quality, soil and fertility regeneration, conservation and economic development. Local and foreign experts will introduce the larger regional dynamics and systems, the political economic and cultural underpinnings of the Magdalena River Basin, as well as some of the more promising innovations and strategies that are emerging in community and land use planning. Visits to relevant projects will be in conjunction with talks from architects and planners examining urban issues countrywide and new models of planning with informal and rural settlements.
Medellín is Colombia’s second-largest city, the capital of the Antioquia region, and a showcase for the transformative power of design to transform a place. Medellín is the site of numerous important seminal urbanistic case studies that show demonstrate how good landscape and public space design, improved access to transit, civic engagement, and investment in the arts can transform the urban environment: beginning in 2004, a series of civic architectural interventions, new transportation linkages, and targeted interventions in its sprawling informal settlements changed Medellín from one of the most dangerous cities in the world to a safe and dynamic center of innovation and equitable urban growth. New parks, libraries, and botanical gardens were designed by emerging contemporary design firms anchor this urban transformation.
Medellín’s location three hours away from the Field Stations home base at Río Claro makes it an accessible urban laboratory for exploring the issues of informal urban growth, and of strategic design interventions in both social and ecological systems.
Field Stations participants will visit Medellín on several occasions to visit these seminal urban case study projects, learn from local experts, and better understand the interconnection between the urban and rural economy, and between urban and rural ecosystems.
"The Coffee Region" is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Centered on three developing towns, Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales just south of Medellín. This zone is a rural agrarian landscape and ecological hot spot with extensive elevational variation. The focus of the 2019 workshop will be based in this region. All four cities have airports and health facilities, with well-developed tourism infrastructure and a summer climate conducive to fieldwork. This area is also safe and far from any conflict zones.
The workshop will focus on this region’s diverse set of environmental, social and economic issues. Land management is primarily rooted in coffee production; a national park and conservation areas include a large Páramo ecosystem and cloud forest. A rich agricultural heritage and high levels of biodiversity provide economic opportunities for expanding agritourism and ecotourism. However, these opportunities increase already existing threats to this dynamic ecologically rich area. Waterways face pollution challenges from deforestation, erosion, industrial wastewater discharges and mining.